December 31, 2008
Happy New Year!
I have been trying to figure out a profound way to close out 2008 on this blog. I have been working on a couple other writing projects today in Portuguese, and my mind is just not cooperating in English at this point.
So...here is a little music from our seminary choir. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!
December 26, 2008
Christmas at the Comings'
This year marked our fourth consecutive Christmas celebrated in Brazil. As has always been the case since we arrived, God blessed us with a memorable celebration.
In the morning, it was family time.
Then in the afternoon we hosted a group of young people from our church.
We have made a habit of hosting young people since we arrived, and this year Itacyara outdid herself as host.
December 24, 2008
What God Did--The Final Chapter (we hope) of the Montes Claros Adventure
We know that many of you have been praying faithfully for us as we have dealt with the issues surrounding our vehicle. We have posted several updates along the way, but I think it is time for a general update, showcasing the faithfulness of God in this situation.
In case you have forgotten (or just missed that part), we took a trip to São Paulo in October to attend a conference. We made it as far as the state of Minas Gerais (roughly 800 miles from home) before the truck began to show signs of trouble. The upshot of it was that we missed the conference, and ended up leaving the truck at a repair shop in the city of Montes Claros while we returned home by bus.
On Monday, December 8, my friend Cicero and I set off by bus for Montes Claros, Minas Gerais. It is a long trip, involving one connection and several stretches of road where assaults are common. There is much opportunity for things to go wrong. Nothing did. We arrived safely at our destination on Tuesday afternoon.
God's protection can also be seen in the fact that nothing happened to us while we were in Montes Claros. Upon our arrival there we discovered that the city is in the throes of a minor drug war. From the stories we were told (and from the look of the neighborhood where we stayed) we expected to hear gunfire at any moment.
At one point what sounded like a volley of shots broke out very close by. Further investigation revealed that it was fireworks from the grand opening of a nearby store.
Several times we were required to be out at night (including one midnight taxi run to meet a tractor trailer at a gas station on the outskirts of town to pick up our crankshaft), and never were we accosted, assaulted, mugged, or otherwise molested.
The first news we received upon our arrival was bad: the crankshaft we had lugged from Crato to Montes Claros was the wrong one. This was the second time the supplier had sent the wrong piece. This was discouraging, as it meant that we would have to order the right piece and wait for it to arrive.
As we were waiting, God began to show me some things. I began to see that my plans (A. Selling the truck and getting something comparable or, B. Waiting until the truck was fixed and driving it back to Crato to be sold) were not viable. The poor Toyota was too far gone for either of those options. With no solution in sight, I began to think that I would be spending Christmas in Montes Claros. After all, who was going to buy my truck in the condition it was in?
The correct crankshaft arrived on Monday evening. The next day, Cicero and I came to a decision: if there was no resolution by Wednesday he would take the next bus back to Crato and I would remain in Montes Claros alone to resolve the situation.
As we were riding with the mechanic to the machine shop were the engine was being put back together I mentioned to him how it looked like I would be spending Christmas away from my family.
"If you could find someone who would trade you a car for your Toyota the way it is, would you be interested?" he asked.
Of course I was. With that he pulled into the parking lot of a small auto dealership. He explained our situation to the owner, and together we went back to the garage to look at the truck. After giving it a good examination he offered me R$35,000 for it, on a trade with another vehicle. We went back to his dealership to look at what he had to offer.
After a day of deliberation we settled on a 2005 Volkswagen Gol (kind of like the VW Fox known in the US). This was being offered for R$25,000, and so we had the rare experience of a car dealer paying us money. It is hybrid, which means economy on gas. The leftover money almost completely covered the repairs and parts for the Toyota.
I cannot talk about God's provision without mentioning how grateful we are that God provided a special offering so that Cicero could accompany me on this trip. I dislike traveling alone, and Cicero's experience in dealing with Brazilian mechanics and car salesmen, as well as his company, was invaluable.
Beyond What We Could Ask or Think
So I went to Montes Claros the owner of a large Toyota pickup which did not run. I came back with a small Volkswagen hybrid which runs beautifully. I don't think there is any way that I would have made that trade if the Toyota had been problem-free, but on this side of it, in this economy, it seems the perfectly logical thing to do.
We will face some challenges this school year when it comes to transporting the puppet team and involvement in other activities where the truck played a key role. We are, however, quite content with how God worked things out, and we are sure he will work these details out as well.
December 22, 2008
The Crankshaft Chronicle Documentary
What do two guys who are bored out of their skulls and tired of waiting around for auto parts to arrive do to pass the time? Why, make a video documentary, of course.
As you can see, I opted for the unshaven, baseball-cap-sporting look. It worked for Michael Moore...
Lean, "Green", Missionary Machine
Here is the new missionary-mobile.
The "green" in the title is because it is a hybrid, running on both alcohol and gasoline. That's right, we are now saving souls* and saving the planet at the same time.
The guy standing next to the car is Cicero, who was my long suffering companion on this wild adventure.
Still to come: More pictures and video of our Minas Gerais excursion.
*Of course I understand that it is not we who do the saving of souls, but God. I just couldn't make that sentence work any other way.
No 'Bones About It
We are back safe and sound, and there are many things to report. However, first things first. You MUST watch this video.
These talented young ladies have a site, which you can check out here.
December 16, 2008
An Impassioned Plea
December 15, 2008
The Wait Continues
I just got off the phone with the mechanic. It seems the much-awaited crankshaft is on its way. It should be arriving shortly.
Of course, it should have arrived last week. Then I was told it would be arriving Sunday morning. Then Sunday evening. Then early this morning.
Personally, I blame it on the samba.
Note: Be sure to catch the amazing organ solo version of Apanhei-te Cavalquinho at about 2:30
December 14, 2008
Musical Interlude, Brazilian Style
Hosted by none other than Donald Duck:
December 13, 2008
In Case You Were Wondering...
This is where I am. That line represents about 800 miles between me and home. Sigh.
Book Review: How Should We Then Live?
Based on a documentary film series by the same name, Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live purports to trace the history of the shifts in the worldview of Western Civilization from the days of the Roman Empire until modern times. In this it is successful, perhaps even beyond the expectations of the author.
I have never seen the film series, but as of today it is on my "must-see" list. The book should be on every believer’s "must-read" list.
What amazed me about the book went beyond the thoroughness and exactness with which Schaeffer describes the various philosophies and world-views which have pervaded western culture. Rather, it was how he used these trends to project what was to come for our civilization.
And his projections are frighteningly accurate.
Allow me to quote a rather large portion from the penultimate chapter, entitled Alternatives. I think my reasons for citing it will become painfully obvious.
Modern society’s inability to find a solution to the problem of inflation without causing economic recession opens the door wide for economic breakdown. Each cycle of inflation, attempted control, the threat of economic recession, and finally, released control, has increased inflation, yet politically, with most people dominated by the concept of an ever-expanding affluence, it is difficult or impossible to face the danger of economic recession. Thus, each threat of economic recession opens the door for the next higher state of inflation. At a certain point economic breakdown seems all too possible.
Sound familiar? Keep in mind that this was published in 1976. The next paragraph should strike a holy terror into our collective hearts:
I cannot get out of my mind the uncomfortable parallel to the Germans’ loss of confidence in the Weimar Republic just before Hitler, which was caused by unacceptable inflation. History indicates that at a certain point of economic breakdown people cease being concerned with individual liberties and are ready to accept regimentation. The danger is obviously even greater when the two main values so many people have are personal peace and affluence.
In case someone should think “this could never happen in America”, I would suggest a close look at Roosevelt and the New Deal. It has happened once before!
But the value of this book is not just in the historical and cultural information. As someone involved in spreading the message of the Gospel, I found How Should We Then Live to be full of insights into the mentality and world-vision of the secular man of today—even here in Latin America.
In case you hadn’t already guessed, this book comes highly recommended by me. Don’t deprive yourself of the wisdom to be gained by reading it.
Montes Claros at Night
Just a short video showing the view of Montes Claros, MG at night from the second floor of our hotel room.
Yeah, I know...slow news day. Not much else to report on while waiting for a car part to arrive. Perhaps we will be able to think of something else more interesting later on.
December 12, 2008
Pictures from Montes Claros
Fired up the ol' digital camera today and took a couple shots of what is "home" for Cicero and myself as we are in Montes Claros trying to resolve the issues with my truck.
December 11, 2008
Of Crankshafts and Mechanics
It appears that the ever-elusive crankshaft (see yesterdays' post) will be here by Sunday. The mechanic here said that he will need a week to finish the truck once it arrives. I have a standing offer on the truck, as soon as it is finished.
In the good news, I was able to spend last night with a wonderful group of believers at the First Baptist Church here in Montes Claros. I am always amazed at the fellowship that can be had between believers who have never met before.
God is good!
December 10, 2008
And the Truck Adventure Continues
If you have been following our steps on Facebook, or if you received yesterday's prayer letter, you know that we (myself and my good friend Cicero) are currently in Minas Gerais in order to (hopefully) resolve the issue with our truck. We arrived by bus yesterday, lugging with us the new crankshaft for the truck. Bright and early this morning we were at the garage where the truck is. There we had good news and bad news.
There is someone else who wants to buy the truck, and at a decent price.
The crankshaft we drug over 1,600 kilometers is the wrong size. A new one has been located and is being sent to us...but we twiddle our thumbs here while we wait. Please keep praying.
December 5, 2008
Racial Quotas in Brazil
What happens when the "racial quotas" are imposed on a country where about 90% of the population has African roots?
Watch this video:
The quota system here represents nothing more than the re-introduction of institutional racism in Brazil. The students, with their questions, illustrated the absurdity of it all.
A few points:
Quotas invent divisions where none exist.
God created mankind in His image. Genesis 1:27. There is only one race: the race of Man.
Quotas do not address the issue of poverty.
Under the quotas system a rich black person would have a double advantage over a poor white person.
Quotas still discriminate against afro-Brazilians.
Which is worse: telling me that I can't go to a certain school because I am black, or telling me that I would be incapable of studying at a certain school unless helped by the government? Answer: the two options are in essence on and the same. Both are based on a low view of afro-descendants.
Also, notice in the video how the evaluation is made. They take a picture!!! So entry into a school is determined by skin pigmentation and facial features. This is the very definition of racism.
To summarize, racial quotas are anti-biblical, racist, and impractical--in the US and Brazil. Other than that, they are a good idea.
Linking Log 12/5/2008
After several slow news days, we finally have some interesting links to share.
Since before we arrived in Brazil I have been following the growing popularity here of "America's national pastime". Now it appears that my "hometown" team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, are opening a training camp here.
Brazil is selling 100 missiles to...Pakistan.
As I have mentioned before, this is a result of the economic crisis in the US. In tough times, investors pull their money out of emerging markets. The potential downside for missionaries is that support from the US is apt to drop sharply in the next few months.
December 4, 2008
Brief Truck Update
Today was supposed to be the day that our truck was fixed. I called the mechanic's office, and he informed me that one of the parts (the most expensive part, of course) that we had shipped down was flawed. I called the supplier, and hopefully they will care for it shortly.
As it stands now I am planning on going to Minas (together with my friend Cicero) on Monday. Pray that we will be able to fix the car, sell the car (for a decent price) and make it back in one piece.
December 1, 2008
Book Review: Escape from Reason
How did we get from the place where logic and reason were held in high esteem to today’s abhorrence of all absolutes, facts, and certainty? How is it that Man, once so enthralled with his scientific achievements, now turns his back in post-modern self-righteousness on the mental processes that produced them? Or, to put it simply, how did we go from “A does not equal non-A” to “A may or may not equal non-A”?
Francis Schaeffer answers these questions and more in his book Escape from Reason. It is not a voluminous tome, but it is packed full of helpful information.
Starting with Thomas Aquinas and the separation of divine truth from secular truth, he traces a dismal descent as Man has tried to find intellectual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment in a succession of human philosophies.
Don’t let the word “philosophy” scare you off, however. Schaeffer’s language is very accessible, and you do not need a college degree to understand where he is going.
I found his brief history and analysis of modern science to be especially helpful. Here is what he has to say:
Christianity was necessary for the beginning of modern science for the simple reason that Christianity created a climate of thought which put men in the position to investigate the form of the universe.
Not exactly what one hears in public education and popular media today. In the paragraphs that follow he quite adequately demonstrates this point. In other parts of the book his treatment of such thinkers as Hegel, Rousseau, and Descartes is just as concise and informative
Schaeffer’s basis is biblical, orthodox Christianity, his reasoning is air-tight, and his language is convincing. If somehow you have been convinced by the snobbish “I-don’t-know-anything-and-that-makes-me-cooler-than-you” attitude of post-modernism (and if you don’t know what I mean by that, google “emergent church”) this book will either frustrate you to no end or force you to rethink your (non)philosophy.
Mudslides in Brazil
Many of you may have seen reports by now of massive flooding here in Brazil. If you have not, here is a broadcast from the AP. Check out the footage of the actual mud slide in progress, partway through the report. This has been playing over and over on Brazilian TV.
The good news (for us) is that this is a LONG WAY from where we live (think distance between New York and Florida). As you can see from the report, however, the devastation is tremendous. Please pray for believers and churches in the state of Santa Catarina area as they deal with the suffering and hardship caused by this natural disaster.