July 30, 2009
Live Tweeting an Ordination
I am sitting in the sanctuary of Fellowship Baptist Church, as we prepare for the ordination of my brother. If you are interested, I will be keeping a running commentary during the blessed event via Twitter.
In case you were unable to follow the tweets, Daniel was duly ordained after an outstanding examination. Congrats bro!
As I stood Tuesday morning in the customs line at the Atlanta airport, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: "The military flight has arrived."
Shortly, soldiers in fatigues began to file through, and the area was rocked with thunderous applause. It continued until the last soldier had gone, and then started up again when the next group of soldiers came through. It was a tremendously moving scene, which reminded me of the ad below:
I still get a lump in my throat when I think about it. It is nice to see that this happens in real life, and not just in beer ads.
A Surprise Trip to the US
Several months ago the pastor of our home church contacted me about the possibility of my coming to the US to participate in the ordination of my brother Daniel. The church paid for my ticket, and on Tuesday I arrived in Lakeland, FL.
What was really neat is that this was a complete surprise for my brother. Shortly after my arrival at the pastor's house I went out back and got in one of the monkey cages (oh yes, he is a collector of exotic animals). Daniel came over with my parents, ostensibly to look at some of pastor's new animals and to have desert. Below are some pictures his wife took of his reaction:
Here is Daniel as he is seeing me for the first time. The classic double-take.
When he could finally speak, his exact wording was "DUDE!"
This is me leaving my hiding place. I was very grateful that they put me in an empty cage.
And the joyful reunion. It looks as if the monkeys want to be a part of it as well.
Daniel and I catching up on old times.
Of course, Daniel had to tweet the event to everybody.
July 23, 2009
Health Care Reform: A View from Below the EquatorMy breakfast this morning was accompanied by various news reports about the progress of health care reform in the US. Both sides make references to other countries which have socialized health care, and the pros and cons of such a system in the US. This prompted me to make the following observation on Twitter and Facebook:
My thoughts on health care reform: if the engine is broke, fix it--don't pull it out and replace it with a hamster running inside a wheel.
Several people responded, and one of my Facebook friends mentioned that, as a foreign missionary, I might have a perspective on health care that could be helpful to the debate. So, after some reflection, here are my thoughts:
Medical care is guaranteed by the Brazilian government. Emergency care is always free, and there are a couple government-run plans that provide insurance to low-income people. Because our insurance is US-based, we pay everything out-of-pocket, as opposed to using a Brazilian plan. We have been generally pleased with the medical attention we have received--especially when it came to the birth of our second son, Nathanael. The hospital where he was born was clean and efficiently run, and the staff very professional.
For those who must use free government resources, however, the story is different. For a year and a half I was director of the Iguatu Baptist Camp, and we took all campers with injuries and sicknesses to the local public hospital. It was always understaffed, WAY below US cleanliness standards, and in many instances the staff lacked in basic professionalism. On a couple of occasions I was afraid that the hospital would succeed only in worsening the condition. Sadly, this is the situation I have found in every emergency facility I have known here.
It is true that medical treatment is cheaper here than in the US. The astronomical cost involved in giving birth to Mikey (our first born) in the US stood in sharp contrast to the mere $1500.00 it cost here for his younger brother. One of the reasons for this is that Brazil is not nearly as litigous as the US, and therefore doctors and other medical professionals do not have to carry the absurd amounts of malpractice insurance required for their US counterparts.
Perhaps the biggest contrast to be made between the Brazilian health-care system and the one currently in place in America can be seen in terms of people traveling from one country to the other for medical services.
Many Americans make the trip to Brazil for medical procedures. They come for plastic surgery, liposuctions, and laser eye surgery. All of these can be had here for a fraction of what they cost in the United States.
Whenever a prominant Brazilian polititian or entertainer becomes gravely ill, however, they are immediately whisked off to the US.
The contrast cannot be clearer: when it comes to health care, come to Brazil to save some money, go to the US to save your life.
July 22, 2009
Final Camp Ministry for 2009
Last week marked the third and final ministry of our seminary puppet team over this vacation period. Since the end of classes they have ministered to roughly 150 children and reported at least 20 decisions for Christ. I am very proud of their dedication and hard work.
Below are some pictures of this last week of ministry:
The puppet team--along with yours truly--getting ready for their final presentation.
Some sort of game inspired by monkey-in-the-middle.
This is me with the director of the junior week of camp, whose name--coincindentally--is Junior. When Itacyara and I arrived in Brazil almost four years ago Junior was a member of our church youth group. Today he is married, finishing up his last year of Bible College, and this summer ran the kids' program at camp. It has been a great privilege to watch Junior grow, and participate in a small way in his development.
Lost in Translation?
Itacyara, my lovely and multi-talented wife, is studying language arts at the local university. This morning she gave a report on the influence of a translator on the original meaning of a work.
In the middle of her presentation a student raised his hand.
"This is why those who study the Bible come to the conclusion that it is not the word of God." he opined. "There is just so much that has been lost in translation from the original Aramaic."
Poor guy, he had no idea who he was dealing with.
Itacyara, in her gentle, smiling way, was quick to explain the fact that it was easy to check modern translations against the original language, that the translations of the Scriptures are much more reliable than those of Homer, Plato, etc.--not to mention that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek AND Aramaic.
I wish I could have been there. Truth be told, I envy the opportunity she has to defend the faith in the university context. She is more than up to the task.
July 17, 2009
Book Review: The Pocket Book of O. Henry Stories
I have long delighted with to the tales of William Sidney Porter, otherwise known as O. Henry. His colorful characters and half-cynical plot twists have entertained me for years. I was very pleased, therefore, to come into posession of this collection of his works--incomplete as it may be. While I was disappointed that it did not include a couple of my favorite short stories (The Ransom of Red Chief, for example), it more than made up for it by including several stories that I had not yet read.
In this review I will list the stories included in this book, along with a brief (one sentence, usually) synopsis.
The Gift of the Magi
Possibly O. Henry's most famous work. A poor young couple make the ultimate sacrifices in order to buy each other Christmas gifts, and bring an entire new meaning to the phrase "it's the thought that counts".
The Skylight Room
A young woman meets her prince charming in a most unorthodox way.
The Cop and the Anthem
A vagrant is consistently frustrated in his attempts to get arrested, and then in his attempt at reform.
Memoires of a Yellow Dog
The story of a henpecked man, as told from the perspective of his loyal canine pet.
Springtime à la Carte
A young couple in love find each other with the help of a restaurant menu.
The Green Door
A man responds to the call of adventure and rescues a damsel in distress. This story ends with a classic O. Henry twist.
After Twenty Years
The first O. Henry story I ever read. Two friends reunite after twenty years--with unpredictable results.
The Furnished Room
Two related tragedies in one appartment.
The Pimienta Pancakes
How not to win the attention of a young lady in the Old West.
The Reformation of Calliope
A western badman undergoes a complete, thorough, and instantaneous reformation.
The Passing of Black Eagle
A vagrant is thrust into high adventure, and decides that it is not for him.
A Retrieved Reformation
The concept of this story has been made into at least one movie. An expert safe-cracker tries to go the straight and narrow, only to be forced to use his skill to save a child trapped in a safe.
Whilstling Dick's Christmas Stocking
A hobo becomes privy to plans to rob a southern mansion on Christmas. His quick thinking saves the day.
An American living in a Banana Republic is embroiled in national intrigue, and not only comes out on top, but gets the girl.
A distraught man in search of his lost sister seeks the help of two detectives in New York City. This story proves that the most elaborate methods are not always the most effective.
Makes the Whole World Kin
A theif discovers he has something in common with his would-be victim.
The Whirligig of Life
A hillbilly Justice of the Peace administers a divorce, an alimony settlement, and a reconciliation--all for the same couple.
A Newspaper Story
Sometimes the effect of a newspaper is not at all what the editor had in mind.
The Voice of the City
A man sets out to find the "voice of the city". He seems to have found it, but I am still confused.
One Thousand Dollars
A ne'er-do-well inherits one thousand dollars, and makes better use of it than anybody expected.
The Trimmed Lamp
This story explores the possibility of finding true happiness in marriage.
A Madison Square Arabian Night
A wealthy man entertains a down-on-his luck painter. In the process he hears an amazing tale, and resolves a question that is weighing heavily on his mind.
The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball
An alcoholic resolves to go "dry", and faces mixed reactions from his spouse.
Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen
A starving gentleman feeds a stuffed beggar.
The Buyer from Cactus City
West meets East, and East is unable to resist West's charms.
The Badge of Policeman O'Roon
Poking gentle fun at Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, O. Henry tells a tale of two former comrades in arms.
The Last Leaf
A painter finishes his final masterpiece--just in time to save the life of a young lady.
The Tale of a Tainted Tenner
Told from the perspective of a ten dollar bill, this story is a scathing condemnation of "polite society" and those who practice a hypoctritic religion.
A Municipal Report
A writer explores the best and worst that the Old South has to offer.
Compliments of the Season
A lost and found rag doll, and a simple kindness, save a man's life.
Some final observations:
Harry Hansen's introduction to the book is very informative. I share his lamentation at O. Henry's early demise. What might he have written had he lived longer?
I was also struck for the first time with the overwhelming number of biblical references O. Henry employs in his writing. The meaning of many of these stories will be lost on the reader with no background in the Scriptures.
Finally, as I live in Brazil, I was struck by the reference to Santos Dumont in the story "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen".
July 10, 2009
Vintage Post: Preparation for Worship
Over the next few weeks we will be revisiting some of the better posts that have appeared in the last six years of blogging here at the Comings Communiqué. This post is from October, 2003, and the subject is "worship".
Much is said and written these days on the subject of worship. There are conflicting opinions on the mode of worship, the music of worship, and the motives for worship. (Like that little alliteration? I just made it up!) The differing perspectives and practices have caused a virtual cacaphony on the worship scene.
Old Testament saints seemed to have no confusion as to what constituted true worship. Take Jacob, for instance. He was no goody-two-shoes, by any stretch of the immagination. Cheating his brother (twice!), lying to his father, deceiving his father-in-law--not the greatest resum� for a worship leader. Yet Jacob had conversed personally with God twice, and wrestled with Him once. This in Genesis 35, when God commands Jacob to go Bethel (House of God) immediately following the sordid Dinah incident, we find him putting his house in order. The command he gives to his family members is very revealing:
Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments.
It seems that Jacob knew that he was heading for another meeting with God. He had three commands for his household:
Click here to finish reading the article.
July 9, 2009
Before and After
During our trip to Petrolina and Treasure Island this past week, I had an amazing experience. I was eating lunch with our seminary team at the home of one of the church bretheren. A man and his wife came in the room, and I immediately recognized them as a couple I had met on my very first trip to Brazil, almost 20 years ago. He recognized me as well, and we got to reminiscing about the time we had spent together, specifically a trip to Recife that we had taken with a group of deaf kids.
The next day he came by where we were staying, and showed me the following picture he had taken on that trip:
In case you didn't figure it out, the skinny, nerdy (seriously, the only thing lacking is the pocket-protector) kid on the left--the one with glasses the size of windshields--is me.
The guy in the picture with me is one of the deaf kids, named Jonas. On Sunday night we went to the deaf church, and guess who I ran into: Jonas! It had been 20 years since I had seen him, also. Just for kicks, we decided to recreate the photo.
Last week I took our seminary puppet team (Amiguinhos de Jesus) and our puppet school (Cidade Feliz) to Treasure Island, where they worked at a camp for (mostly) underprivileged kids administered by missionary colleagues Doug and Renate Reiner.
In one word, the week was awesome! The four seminary students that went with us did an outstanding job, and Cicero and Nice were indispensable in their work with the crafts and filming. They also administered a puppet school in Petrolina (the closest city to Treasure Island), and I will talk more about that in a future post.
As we arrived at the island late on Tuesday afternoon, we were treated to this view of the rocks, bathed in the glow of the setting sun.
As we docked and unloaded the supplies, the sun continued to set. One of the people there took this beautiful shot.
Our first order of business was to set up our equipment. It was then that we discovered a minor tragedy--our curtain had stayed back on the mainland. By this time, however, we are experts at improvisation, and after patching together several blankets, this was the result. Most agreed that it looked even better than our original, blue curtain. In the picture above, Laranginha makes his hesitant entrance.
Renatinha was in charge of the competitions. Here two young ladies prepare to see who can eat a tomato on a string in the shortest period of time.
In another one of Renatinhas games the object was to spin around ten times, and then try to score a goal. It is a testimony to Brazilian soccer prowess that both people who participated in this competition scored on the first try--and then fell down like drunken sailors.
Our puppeteers were in charge of the chapel session, and they did an outstanding job. Here Mikey "helps" Misael and Laranjinha lead a song.
The island provides many unusual recreational activities. Here Misael takes his campers for a ride in a donkey-drawn cart.
Of course, what fun would an island be without swimming?
Nice (prounounced NEE see), one of our partners in the Cidade Feliz project, led the campers in two craft projects that involved (surprise surprise) puppets. This is my own creation.
By far the best part of the week was seeing these six young people (here shown with their counselors) make decisions for Christ. This is what makes all the preparation, expense and hard work worthwhile.
The retreat was over all too soon, and we had to pack our bags and head for the mainland. We were thrilled with the opportunity, however, and are very excited with the results.
Book Review: The Ragged, Rugged Warriors
All of us like stories where the good guys win. We are not naturally drawn to tales of mass incompetence and bad decisions resulting in futile bloodshed and losing battles. Martin Caiden sets out to tell just such a story, and he does so compellingly.
In the months and years leading up to Pearl Harbor and America's entrance into World War II several airmen came into contact with Japanese air power. As they consistently encountered the power and technological superiority of the Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane, and the overwhelmingly superior skill of the Japanese pilots, they grew concerned and informed the US. Their warnings were ignored.
Caiden relates the stories of these men, and others who joined them, as they faced alone the Japanese onslaught with outdated planes, having to learn fighting skills "on the fly". He covers in details the stories of these brave Americans as they fought in China, at Pearl Harbor, the Phillipines, Malaysia, and other places.
He finishes his harrowing account with a chapter entitled "The Other Midway", in which he narrates the story of a group of Marauder bombers that attacked the Japanese fleet. Almost all were lost, none hit thier target. But they sufficiently distracted the enemy so other fighters and bombers could move in for the kill. Such is the legacy of the ragged, rugged warriors.
The book is well-researched. The author is very knowlegable in the subject, and sprinkles his narrative generously with first-hand accounts. Once I began reading this book, I had difficulty putting it down.