May 28, 2010
In The Land of Football
It's World Cup time, and in honor of it I give you this video:
I am thinking of showing this video tomorrow as an introduction to a message I am giving to a group of young people interested in studying at the seminary next year. Lots of parallels to the points I want to make from the life of Joshua.
Talk back to the missionary: Any predictions as to this year's World Cup winner (**cough**Brazil**cough). Be prophetic in the comments section.
See more video posts here.
May 26, 2010
Musical Interlude: Beer and Drums Don't Mix
Or maybe they mix very well...
H/T Abraham Piper
Enjoy this musical interlude? There's more!
Talk back to the missionary: Anybody thinking of inviting this guy to participate in your praise and worship team?
May 23, 2010
Things Are Not As They Seem...
As we hiked around the city of Caririaçu the other day, Nathanael and I happened on what appeared to be a dead end street.
Curious as to why the city government decided to end the street at that location--with a large neighborhood just beyond--we walked toward the fence. When we reached it, we discovered that our eyes had deceived us.
This was the scene that greeted us.
It reminded me of how many times over the last four years I have formed an opinion of somebody, only to realize that there was much more to them than I originally imagined. There was the academically-challenged seminary student who is now an outstanding pastor. Then there was an English student I had, wife of a veterinarian. I never would have dreamed they were spiritually hungry. Now both of them are saved and sitting in my doctrine class, preparing for ministry.
Or what about the stuck-up, self-righteous pastor's kid from Upstate New York who God shook up and sent to be a missionary in Brazil?
Ever tempted to think a person is a "dead end"? Remember that God sees the whole picture--and try to see that person the same way.
Talk back to the missionary: Ever been surprised by what God did in the life of someone you considered a "dead end"? Share with us in the comments section.
May 22, 2010
It has been ages since we have had a Caption Challenge here. But when I saw this picture--taken today at our puppet school--I had to believe that, between my pose and the look on the puppet's face, there has to be a caption or two out there.
Have at it!
May 21, 2010
Book Review: Wild at Heart
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge has been on my list of books to read for some time now. I was first brought into contact with it when a couple men whom I respect greatly highly recommended the book to me. The very next opinion I got about it was from Daniel Gillespie, who wrote a decidedly unflattering review of Wild at Heart in the book Fool's Gold, edited by John MacArthur.
Here was a dilemma. Two men whom I respected, vs. John MacArthur's ministry--for which I also have a very high regard. Finally I was able to acquire a copy of Wild at Heart (in the inner recesses of a used book store in Fortaleza, Brazil) and read it for myself. What follows are my thoughts.
Might as well get these out of the way first. Like Gillespie, I was troubled by Eldredge's downplaying of God's sovereignty. I think I understand what he is trying to say--but the adventuresome nature of Christ's rescue of his Bride is in no way diminished by His absolute sovereignty over all things. Perhaps a better way of expressing it would be to say that God is the Author of the greatest adventure in the Universe...an adventure in which He takes an active role.
I was also somewhat frustrated by the freewheeling way in which Eldredge uses the term "God's word". I am sure that he would make distinction between the revealed Word of God and the movie Gladiator, but that distinction is unclear in the book.
Having said that, I have no problem with his use of literature and movies to illustrate his points. Gillespie apparently does, although if pressed, I'm sure Gillespie would concede the existence of "common grace". My own life was profoundly changed by Jim Carey's The Mask...but that is a story for another time.
As for the rest of Gillespie's review, it seems to be a lengthy exercise in missing the point. There is enough "good stuff" in Wild at Heart to make it well worth the read.
The Good Stuff
Eldredge has put his finger on one of the greatest problems facing modern Christianity--the lack of real men. As he says:
Walk into most churches, have a look around, and ask yourself: What is a Christian man? Without listening to what is said, look at what you find there. Most Christian men are...bored.
Christianity has been emasculated. It is seen as something for women and children. If we are going to get men excited about living the Christian life, we are going to have to put it in the terms of adventure. God created men for adventure, and He created the Christian life as the ultimate adventure for men. This is why, two years ago, I started working on the Missionary Max project (did you like how I subtly slipped that in there?), and this is the genius of Eldredge's work. He identifies the lie (that spirituality is feminine) and brings the truth (that true spirituality is very masculine) to bear.
Not only does Eldredge get the problem right, he also makes a lot of sense when it comes to the solution. Here are some aspects of Wild at Heart that spoke to me:
The forgotten art of initiation. Ever wonder why we have 30 year-olds living with their parents and staying up past midnight surfing the web or playing video games? It is because they have never been effectively told that they are men. Eldredge does a masterful job of illustrating this point with various cultural traditions, and then bringing the concept full circle to being initiated by God.
The role of women. It may seem strange that in a book about men there is a significant portion dedicated to women. But it shouldn't. For men to be men, women must be women. I especially enjoyed (and Gillespie completely missed the point in his critique) the section where Eldredge deals with the book of Ruth. Some might object to Eldredge's use of the word "seduce", but I will go out on a limb here and say that if Christian men are consistently being seduced by their wives, they will be in far less danger of seduction by other women.
Spiritual warfare In Western Christianity there exists the concept that the status-quo is a good thing, and that the only real spiritual warfare happens in third-world countries that still practice voo-doo. Eldredge blows this mindset apart, illustrating the condition of the Western Church with a story about paratroopers dropped over Normandy before D-Day who discovered a stash of alcohol. Their drunkenness in the midst of battle is an apt illustration for our frivolous lifestyles in the midst of great spiritual peril.
Wild at Heart has many other great aspects which make it a worthwhile read. Certainly there are many points which can be debated. I in no way want to diminish their importance. But you will cheat yourself if you let these points get in the way of understanding the main point. And if the Church doesn't get the main point, we are in for rough waters ahead.
Talk back to the missionary: Have you read Wild at Heart? What did you think? Prove your manhood by leaving a comment in the comments section.
Did you like this review? There's more! Check out all of my book reviews here.
May 19, 2010
Brazilian Stamp of the Week: The Opening of the Ports
A friend of mine found out I collected stamps and gave me this Brazilian piece from 1908. It commemorates the centennial of the opening of the ports.
What is the significance of the opening of the ports?
I'm glad you asked.
From 1500 to 1808 Portugal had a monopoly on Brazil's ports. Only Portuguese ships could do business in Brazil's harbor cities. On January 24th, 1808, the Portuguese royal family arrived in Brazil on British ships, having escaped Napoleon's invading forces in the homeland. Four days later the prince regent of Portugal declared the Brazilian ports open to friendly nations. By "friendly nations" he meant, specifically, the British.
This act had an enormous positive impact on Brazil's economy. The partnership with the British would such modern inventions as railroads and cotton-related technology to Brazil. It also paved the way for Brazil's abolition of slavery, which was based on the fact that Britain had outlawed the trade.
Ultimately, the opening of the ports paved the way for the Gospel, as the first Protestant missionaries to gain a permanent foothold in Brazil were British.
A couple details to note on the stamp: Notice that Brazil is spelled with a "z", whereas today it is spelled with an "s". Also, along the bottom edge you can read the name of the establishment that printed the stamp: "American Bank Note Co. N.Y."
Talk back to the missionary: If you can think of anything related to stamps or to the opening of ports, by all means share in the comments section.
May 17, 2010
Missionary Max: Prologue--Reach Out and Touch Someone
Max's arms burned with the pressure being exerted on them. His hands clung desperately to the rope while below him—several hundred feet below him—the jungle canopy spread out like a green carpet. Above him he could hear the roar of an airplane.
The rope he was holding was attached to the plane, and he was trying to pull himself up to the cockpit. It would have been a daunting task under any circumstances. And the fact that there was a beautiful woman in a leopard-skin dress with her arms and legs locked around his middle made it all the more difficult.
Gritting his teeth, and with every last ounce of strength he possessed, Max began to climb.
Who is Max? Why are he and his beautiful companion swinging like human pendulums over the jungle? To answer these questions we have to go back.
The year was 1986, but on the island of Cabrito it might as well have been 1956. Little had changed in three decades for inhabitants of this green speck surrounded by the vast blue of the Atlantic ocean. The newest buildings in downtown Santo Expedito, Cabrito's sleepy capital city, were built in the seventies, and most of the structures that lined the cobblestone streets were from earlier decades—even earlier centuries. Ancient cars from bygone days still plied the city, held together by little more than the hopes and prayers of their owners. The Santo Expedito International airport received three flights a day—one from Kingston, one of Havana, and one from Rio.
Politics was another unchanged aspect of life on Cabrito. First elected in 1956, Francisco Rabelo had enjoyed the unwavering support of the island's elite family. Consequently he had felt no need to invest in Cabrito's decaying infrastructure. Instead, he devoted himself heart and soul to the building of his personal fortune at the expense of public coffers.
Then, quite unexpectedly, in an election which was supposed to have only one candidate, Rabelo found himself facing vigorous opposition. Leftist revolutionary Camilo Saraiva—purportedly funded by Cuba—had somehow obtained very specific information about the current administration's systematic plundering of public funds. Undaunted by the refusal of the nation's only newspaper—A Verdade—to publish his findings, Saravia ran off thousands of copies on a mimeograph machine and posted them on walls and light posts throughout the capital.
Now, for the first time in his career as a “public servant”, Rabelo was obliged to think about the public. Desperate, he looked around for some area of infrastructure that he could modernize at minimum cost and maximum publicity for himself. He settled on the public telephone system.
Woefully out of date and decrepit, the pay phones had not been updated or repaired since the fifties. With uncharacteristic zeal Rabelo set to work. He contracted an American company and bought millions of dollars worth of equipment. The new phones that sprouted up around the island had the words “Alô Cabrito” stenciled on them in white letters. Underneath were the words “Adm. F. Rabelo”, so nobody would forget who was responsible for such a giant technological leap forward.
The opposing party was not idle in the face of all this. Saraiva's pamphlets contemptuously derided the new telephones as coisa de gringo, insinuating that it was all a show in order to get votes. As it became obvious that the jaded populace was not being swayed by his efforts, Rabelo became increasingly desperate. What he needed was some big project, something of Pharaonic proportions, which would impress once and for all the Cabritanos. Then, he had an idea.
“My fellow Cabritanos” he began in his weekly radio address. “My opponent has accused me of trying to buy votes with the Alô Cabrito project. I want to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. If I were just trying to get votes, why would I put a public phone in the Ipuna Jungle, for the Indians to use? I give you my word, I only have in mind the modernization of my beloved Cabrito.”
There it was. He had promised to build a public phone for the Indians. And, in a move totally out of character for Rabelo, he set out immediately to fulfill his promise. The American contractors hired for the task scratched their heads at the idea. Why would anybody put a pay phone in the jungle? But, as the compensation was more than generous, they shrugged their shoulders and ran the underground line from the nearest substation into the rainforest.
Meanwhile, Rabelo ordered the military to find a suitable Indian village. The helicopters finally located a group of thatched dwellings not too far into the dense jungle, and the contractors dutifully laid the cables and installed the phone. The aluminum post and blue fiberglass cover presented a stark contrast to the Quonset huts of the Yamani tribe.
It was just this kind of contrast that Francisco Rabelo was looking for. This would symbolize to the people of Cabrito that his administration...no...that he represented progress from the stone age to the modern world.
The inauguration of the telefone dos índios was a grand affair. Rabelo brought out a camera crew from Cabrito’s only TV station, together with as many reporters and photographers as he could round up. With a handful of Yamani Indians standing by, he made an inspiring speech about how these phones would unite all cabritenses in one big, happy family. Then, with great ceremony, he placed a token in the slot and slowly, dramatically, punched in a number.
At the presidential palace in Santo Expedito another gaggle of reporters and photographers waited in a large state room. Before them was an oaken table on which sat a telephone. At the table, facing those assembled, sat Osvaldo Ferraz, loyal and ambitious secretary of state for the Rabelo administration.
Suddenly there were two short rings from the phone, followed by a pause and then two more short rings. Osvaldo picked up the phone.
“Alô, Senhor Presidente.” There was a round of applause from the reporters, and the photographers strained to get a good shot of the event. It was the first phone call from an Indian village to the presidential palace.
It was also the last.
As the election drew near the ruling family of Cabrito at last came to Rabelo's aid, and through strong-arm tactics and voter fraud the incumbent won the election. Camilo Saraiva and his auxiliaries melted into the jungle, never to be heard from again. Some theorized darkly that he had been assassinated, others that he was evacuated to Cuba in the dead of night by a Russian submarine.
Whatever the fate of his opponent, Rabelo's victory celebration was short-lived. In his enthusiasm for the Alô Cabrito program there were a few important details he had failed to take into consideration.
One such detail was that the Yamani Indians are a nomadic tribe. They stay in one place for about a month, and then leave in search of better hunting. Hence, even if they possessed the necessary tokens to operate “their” pay phone, and even if they had any reason whatsoever to call anybody in the capital city, and even if they understood the meaning of the markings on the ten little buttons, they would not have been able to take it with them when they moved, which they did two days after the election.
Perhaps the presidente would have been gratified to know that, sensing something important was connected to the phone, the Yamanis returned regularly for about a year afterward to adorn it with flowers and leave gifts at its aluminum base.
But he would not have had much time to revel in that fact. Another detail he had failed to take into account was Osvaldo Ferraz, his loyal and ambitious secretary of state. Ferraz, it became evident, was much more ambitious than he was loyal. The military coup that would signal the end of the Rabelo administration took place a mere two days after the election results were made public.
And so, as the Yamani Indians made their way to their new dwelling place, they paused briefly to gawk at the twin-prop plane carrying ex-president Francisco Rabelo to his “early retirement” in Brazil.
Meanwhile, back in Santo Expedito, jubilant crowds flooded the streets and tore apart anything that would remind them of the Rabelo administration—including every last one of the brand-new public phones.
This is the first chapter of the Missionary Max series as it was originally published on this blog. The series is currently in the process of being published as an e-book by Creative Fuel Studios. If you read the original series, you will be happy to know that it has undergone significant improvements. As it is now an officially copyrighted work, all the other chapters have been removed. This one is left as a hat-tip to pure, unadulterated capitalism.
As soon as we have a definite publishing date I will post the information here.
To learn more about the reasoning behind the Missionary Max series, click here.
To download this chapter in PDF format, click here.
Talk back to the missionary: Did you enjoy this? If so, give us a shout-out in the comments sections. If you REALLY enjoyed it, share it with a friend!
May 16, 2010
Why Missionary Max?Beginning tomorrow you will be able to follow the adventures of Missionary Max here on this blog. Several years ago I made a brief foray into fiction, trying to write the chapters of the story as I went. After a short period of time I abandoned this as impractical. For the last two years I have been developing the story of Missionary Max as a series of books which will one day (hopefully) be published. The first book is complete, and I will be posting it chapter-by-chapter every Monday.
So why do this? Why the investment of time and creative energy in a fictional missionary adventure?
The answer is simple: The modern missionary effort is dying for lack of men.
While I certainly don't agree with everything Mark Driscoll has to say, he asked a key question in a recent blog article:
In Christianity today, 60 percent of those who attend church are women. Eleven to thirteen million more women in church than men. Say, "Praise God," the ladies love Jesus. Where are the men?
He goes on to explain how his church seeks to "get the men". And at it's most basic level, Missionary Max is my own humble attempt to "get the men".
Missions needs men, and for men to want to "do" missions they have to understand that it is an adventure. I can remember as a child listening to my Junior Church leader tell the story of Amy Carmichael. She had brown eyes, and wanted blue eyes. She prayed, and asked God to give her blue eyes. God left her eyes brown. Later, when she worked in India, she was able to identify more with the natives because of her brown eyes.
How cute. How sweet. How absolutely...girly!
Later, at a camp, a missionary kept me spellbound with stories of how Amy Carmichael put herself in personal, physical danger in order to singlehandedly save countless girls from lives of temple prostitution. Now THAT is adventure. That is awesome! Laura Croft never dreamed of doing that!!! After the chapel sessions my friends and I would go out and pretend we were missionaries rescuing the fair maidens from the evil temple priests.
And the list goes on. Adoniram Judson stood up to an entire pagan regime. David Livingstone faced down a charging lion and discovered the headwaters of the Nile. Among my colleagues here in Brazil are those who were kept under surveillance by Communists, crash-landed airplanes, were shot by hit-men, and faced down angry mobs. In my own short career I have been stranded in a robber infested wilderness, bought alcoholic beverages for airline employees (it's a long story...suffice it to say I was 17 and had no idea what I was doing at the time), swam in piranha-infested waters, and romanced a native beauty (who is now my wife). This is action! This is adrenaline! This is adventure!!!
And it is this adventure which is not reflected in many of the missionary stories I see today. In reading them one gets the impression that missions consists of prayer meetings and perpetual serenity.
So, enter Missionary Max. Without giving too much away, let me say that you will find him to be somewhat of a cross between Indiana Jones and David Livingstone. And the Indiana Jones reference is no accident. In a recent documentary it was shown how the Indiana Jones adventures raised up a new generation of young archaeologists.
My hope is that Missionary Max will inspire at least a few young men with the adventure that is missions. There will be fights, explosions, restless natives, and yes, even fair maidens. Don't miss it!!!
Talk back to the missionary: Have any real-life missionary adventures to share? Give us an adrenaline rush in the comments section.
May 15, 2010
Missionaries or Yankee Imperialists?
Missionaries who leave their homeland to work in another country almost always carry with them political baggage. They will be asked to explain or justify the actions of the leaders of their nation of origin. And this is not limited to current events. I still get asked why the US found it necessary to bomb Hiroshima, or invade Iraq.
Sometimes the political baggage turns into downright suspicion. I will never forget begin told by a Brazilian that our seminary was most likely a front organization for the CIA, who doubtless had secret tunnels underneath from whence they coordinated their Latin American operations.
During the hot days of the Cold War the suspicion of North American missionaries reached a fever pitch, stoked by Communist groups within Brazil. Below is an article that appeared in 1950 in a Socialist rag in Fortaleza called (ironically) The Democrat. It was translated into English by it's main subject, pioneer missionary Edward McLain. My observations appear in parentheses.
Concerning the American strangers in the Carirj;
They work under the cape of an evangelical mission of the Brazilian church. Reunions in the English language, far from the sight of the native believers. The number of Yankee missionaries grows day by day. Who is Mr. Edward McLain chief of the mission. Where the beasts of Truman are worse than the beasts of Hitler.
It has been but a short time since the periodical, 'The Action',which is edited in the city of Crato, published a full report denouncing with strong alarm the profundity of the Yankee imperialist penetration in the Cariri, masqueraded in an evangelical Mission of the Baptist church, headed by Mr. Edward McLain. It is true that that organ,which obeys the orientation of the Roman clergy, saw little beyond the danger which said mission would bring to the interests of the Roman church.
However, the danger exits, but for the future of our country; because it is already no secret that the North American Imperialist forces come to us adopting these tactics in the penetration of many, if not all,of the countries of the continent.
A Notable Engineer
Mr. Edward has resided for some years in the city of Crato, which seems to be the seat of the so-called mission of the Baptist church in the Cariri. He is a mining engineer of notable capacity, who presents himself as simple Protestant pastor. In Crato, Mr. Edward possesses a residence installed with every modern comfort. He lives on a high plane, and no one knows any other legal activity aside from his being chief of the Protestant worship in the Cariri.
The Mission grows continually.
Since 1949, the number of missionaries has increased considerably. Most of the houses recently constructed in Juazeiro, for cxample, are to be used by members of the Mission who are now arriving, or soon will be; these missionaries bringing with them refrigerators, radios, automobiles, etc. The mission owns a Jeep, and a station wagon which constantly leave Juazeiro with destination unknown, being gone from three to four days. [Editor's Note: The "unknown destination" was evangelism in the outlying communities.]
Every Monday there is a reunion of the pastors to which the native believers do not have access. Further than this, the conversation is all in English. Since it is impossible for any native element to enter, no one has the slightest idea what is discussed in these sessons,which are secret and lengthy. [Editor's Note: These "suspicious meetings" were Monday prayer meetings, and we still have them.]
Suspicious acts of Espionage.
It is known that recently Mr. Edward McLain went to the bureau of statistics in that zone, soliciting, among other things, "innocent information", complete facts concerning the topography of the region, fountains of production, demographic index, etc. [Editor's Note: I believe "fountains of production" would be better translated "sources of income". These are normal things a missionary looks at when going into a new community.]
It is to be seen that not even religion escapes the colonizing and war-thirst fury of the North American
trusts and monopolies. We know, today, from our own experience, that Truaman's hyenas are worse than Hitler's beasts. Since it is thus,it isn't to be wondered at that they use religion for the criminal ends of colonization and war, as the Axis did in the last war, using the piety of priests and bishops of the Catholic religion, in various countries of the world including Brazil; and has occurred recently in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and in other countries of the new democracy where different acts of espionage were discovered and punished.
What We Ought To Do.
It is the special duty of the adepts of the religion preached by the Yankee missions to demand that the pastors make clear certain mysteries which surround them and that they give account of their actions to the people who have received them in good faith, explaining how they live and where so mutch money comes from to maintain their high standard of living. As for the anti-imperialistic and peace-loving patriotfs, we must denounce with utmost vehemence every movement of these war agents and colonizers in our country, demanding that the Brazilian government which orientates our international policy in the sense of absolutely impeding the atomic bomb and that it considers it a crime against humanity to use atomic energy for Biblical ends, and a war criminal the nation which first uses it against any other people or nation. [Editor's Note: Not quite sure how atomic energy can be used for biblical ends.]
Let us put into practice the wise recommendations of the Congress of Stockholm beginning by driving off our native soil all the spies and war traffickers of every color. [Editor's Note: As late as 1989 I attended a rally for a political figure whose platform at that time included the expulsion of all Yankee Imperialists from Brazil. That political figure is now President of the Republic.]
Talk back to the missionary: How do you think a missionary should handle the political baggage he inevitably carries?
May 12, 2010
Book Review at SharperIron
May 11, 2010
Postcard from Recife"Nibblin' on sponge cake, Watchin' the sun bake; All of those tourists covered with oil. Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing. Smell those shrimp-- They're beginnin' to boil."
Well ok, there is no sponge cake, and I left my six-string at home. But the lyrics capture the atmosphere of my surroundings as I type out this post.
Sunday evening we arrived in Recife for Itacyara's Monday interview with the US Consulate. A missionary friend arranged for a discount hotel room for us. When we checked in, we were overwhelmed by the unexpected goodness of God. The "discount" room is on the top floor of a swank hotel overlooking the beach. Besides unlimited access to the beach there is also a pool, sauna, and other amenities. As I mentioned to someone who commented on my Facebook status, this is what we on the mission field call "suffering for Jesus".
I feel the need to add here that there is no way we would be able to afford these accommodations on our own. My missionary friend has a contact who was able to give us a deep discount--kind of like staying at the Ritz for the price of Motel 6.
With such surroundings it was hard to remember our purpose for being in Recife in the first place. Nevertheless, on Monday we went to the consulate for Ita's interview, and the interviews of two young ladies from our church who had received invitations from the US.
God's mercy and blessing extended to us to the extent that Itacyara got a visa valid for one year--not an easy thing to obtain--and one of the young ladies with us also was granted a tourist visa. The other girl was obviously disappointed that her application was not accepted, but with the US Consulate here in Brazil there are never any guarantees. Some serious time on the beach yesterday seemed to ease her disappointment. To quote the Bard (and by the Bard I mean Garth Brooks), heartache is cured by the sea.
We are aware that yesterday's results are the answer to many, many prayers that were being offered up on our behalf. Our thanks to all from the bottoms of our hearts.
Last night, as I was marinating in the pool under the swaying palms and starry Brazilian sky, smelling the salty ocean air, I reflected on the years that I resisted God's call to ministry. I'll never get to do anything! was one of my strongest arguments. Of course ministry rarely involves sand, sun and surf. But there is never a lack of things to do, and every once in a while God puts me in a situation so great that I am forced to the conclusion there is no WAY I deserve this.
Surely such things are evidences of God's immeasurable Grace.
Talk back to the missionary: Have you ever been surprised by an unexpected blessing? Something that has made you exclaim Wow! I can't believe God actually let me do this! If so, tell us about it in the comments section.
May 9, 2010
Please Join Me...
...in wishing a happy Mothers' Day to the wonderful woman who is mother to my two children.
May 8, 2010
Then and Now in Belem
I have been meaning to do this post for some time. Several months ago the son of one of our first BMM missionaries here in Brazil sent me some photos and post cards that date back to the 1930's. Among the photos were a set of postcards from Belem.
As I looked through the cards I recognized two landmarks from my own visit to Belem a couple years ago.
First, there is this picture of a loading dock.
Look closely at the two cranes--one in the foreground and one further back.
Now check out this picture from my recent trip.
This is a picture I took of the same crane, roughly 70 years later. The whole port complex is now a series of swanky restaurants, and the crane and other maritime equipment serve as centerpieces.
This is me sitting at the base of what is the crane in the foreground of the old picture.
Here is another shot, this one of a port for fishing boats in Belem.
And here it is today.
My shot is from a different angle. I am looking to the left while the older picture is looking straight out to sea.
Talk back to the missionary: Have you ever seen an old photograph and thought "Hey! I know that place!"? Tell us about it in the comments section.
Brazilian Stamp of the Week: Coastal Regions and Tidal Zones
This beautiful set of stamps draws attention to the coastal ecosystems (manguezais) and tidal zones. Due to rapid development many animals that live there currently find themselves on the endangered list.
Talk back to the missionary: I can't really think of a question to put at the end of this post. But if anybody feels like putting an answer in the comments section, feel free.
Book Review: The Revived Puritan
Ever since my teenage reading of Dalimore's two-volume biography of George Whitefield the eighteenth-century revivalist preacher has been at the top of my "heroes of the faith" list. My recent reading of The Revived Puritan: the Spirituality of George Whitefield (Classics of Reformed Spirituality)
reinforced that position.
In this book Michael Haykin collects and edits several letters from Whitefield to friends and inquirers. These letters--while far from complete, represent a cross-section of his ministry. They also provide a window on the soul of this great man, revealing--among his imperfections--the depth of his spirituality.
Of particular interest to me were the letters to Wesley at the height of their conflict over the doctrine of Election. Whitefield demonstrates a firmness in his beliefs coupled with a deep and genuine desire that their friendship not suffer due to their differences.
Would that today's Christians could demonstrate the same attitudes.
This book was a great benefit to me, both ministerially and spiritually.
Talk back to the missionary: Who is your spiritual hero? What books would you recommend about his/her life? Let us know in the comments section.
May 6, 2010
Worth the Fare
I have mixed emotions about taxis. My tight-fisted Scottish nature recoils at the high fares. Yet the writer and conversationalist in me enjoys hearing stories--and few people have better stories to tell than Brazilian cabbies.
Of course, once the cabbie finds out I am American, the subject turns to the US, and suddenly I am the one telling the story. I don't like this. If I am paying the exorbitant fare I feel I should get a ride and a story.
The driver of the cab I took on Tuesday morning in Fortaleza had a different approach. Once he discovered my nationality he began to hold forth on all things American. The only thing better than a Brazilian cabbie telling me about his country is a Brazilian cabbie telling me about my country. I regretted that I did not have my notebook and pencil.
"The Americans are so much more advanced than we are." he opined. "Everything comes to the US first before it comes here." He gave some examples that included computers and restaurant chains. What he said next surprised me. "Americans are even more advanced than we are in the spiritual realm."
This was new. In my mind I began to think of some of America's spiritual exports: Mormanism, Jehovah's Witnesses, neo-Pentecostalism--not exactly a list that makes one's chest swell with pride (unless, of course, one happens to be a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, or a neo-Pentecostal).
We talked for some time about spiritual subjects. He had obviously been exposed to a virtual smorgasbord of teachings (casting out of demons, the Illuminati, etc). I tried to encourage him with some biblical points of view on the topics he brought up.
Finally, as we were getting close to my destination, he looked at me and said "I don't know if you are Catholic or not, and I don't want you to be offended."
(Let me pause here to mention that I have no idea, based on our conversation to that point, how he could possibly have thought I was Catholic. Not only that, but I was wearing a shirt that was given to me at a youth rally with "Pastor André" emblazoned on the chest! Seriously, does nobody pay attention to visual cues?)
He continued. "It's just that I think the Baptists have the right idea."
Of course I had to agree with him. When I asked him what contact he had with Baptists, he mentioned that he was attending a church called Philemon Baptist. At that point I almost fell out of the cab. This is one of our churches, pastored by a good friend of mine.
In a city of over two million people, and a veritable "Heinz 57 varieties" of churches, what were the odds that the cabbie who picked me up would be a spiritually curious guy who was attending one of our churches?
By this time we were in front of the building where I was staying. I identified myself as a Baptist missionary and seminary prof. I told him that the church he was attending was a good one, and the pastor a friend. The cabbie was as astonished as I was at the coincidence. I told him I did not believe in coincidences, and gave him my contact information.
Talk back to the missionary: Have you ever had a "coincidence" that turned out to be a divine appointment? Tell us about it in the comments section.
May 5, 2010
What Do You Get...
Stay tuned to this blog in the month of May to find out!
May 3, 2010
The Perverse Character of...WHAT???
A cell-phone store is the last place one expects to be confronted with an anti-capitalist screed. When I walked into the Hospital do Celular on Friday I was not expecting to walk away with Marxist literature. Truthfully, all I wanted to walk away with was a working cell phone.
And when the earnest young man pressed a pamphlet into my hand and gazed into my eyes as if to say "I don't know you from Adam, but from everything I can see it is obvious to me that you will find this very helpful" and then walked out, my first thought was that I had just been "evangelized" by one of my more enterprising Protestant brethren.
Then I saw on the front a halo-adorned icon with the name São José Operário--Saint Joseph Operator.
Definitely not Protestant I thought.
Turning the paper over, I found it was an invitation for me to attend a May 1 rally being hosted by a tossed salad of labor unions. I was supposed to stand, arm in arm with the workers (and workettes--the flier was careful to be gender-inclusive), and protest the (and I quote) "perverse character of capitalism".
In the days that have ensued, I have found myself reflecting back on the event. One question will not go away: What in the name of Saint Jospeh (aka Smooth) Operator made that guy think I would be interested in protesting the "perverse character of capitalism"? Let's review the facts:
1. I was sitting in a cell-phone store. Cell phones are the very symbol of capitalist excess. Have you ever seen a picture of Che talking on his Nokia? Did Fidel ever have to put down his cigar in order to answer his iPhone? I rest my case.
2. I was wearing a pair of American blue-jeans--purchased at Wal-Mart, no less. Can you get any more capitalist?
3. In my lap was my Mac Book Pro. Now I admit, Macs are cutting edge, but when you see one you don't think "rage against the machine"--unless the machine happens to be a PC.
4. There is nothing about my physical appearance that screams "downtrodden masses". Although, if I don't lay off the cholesterol, parts of said physique may well one day be described as "downright massive".
So the mystery remains. Was it because I had not shaved in a couple days and was looking a little "Lula-esque"? Was the pamphleteer acting on a dare by some of his socialist buddies? Was it a test by the CIA to see where my true loyalties lie?
I guess it really doesn't matter, because--in a lamentable turn of events--I was invited to spend Saturday in the country relaxing with friends and eating churrasco. I know, I know. How very bourgeois of me. But it would have been interesting to see the difference between this and the last Communist rally I attended in Crato.
Talk back to the missionary: What do you think prompted such an unlikely invitation? There really is no wrong answer here. Workers of the world unite...in the comments section.