January 30, 2011
Men of Song sing "Everybody Said"
Our sending church has a male vocal group named "Men of Song". It has been my privilege to sing with these men, under the fearless leadership of Larry Madrid, while we have been in the US on furlough. This evening we sang at an event here in Bartow called "Leap of Faith". For our first number we did a quintet arrangement of the classic a capella number "Everybody Said".
Oh, and in case there is any doubt, they guy in the "dreds" is my kid bro and associate pastor of our sending church. He brought down the house!
January 28, 2011
Savoring the Moment...
The Comings Communiqué got linked by one of my favorite sites, Twenty-Two Words, owned and operated by the prolific Abraham Piper. It all came about from a comment I left on this post. Enjoy, while I geek out over the linkage.
Amazed by His Glory
Several months ago I got an e-mail from Baptist Mid-Missions informing me of a project that was in the works. They were collecting first-hand missionary accounts to be included in a compilation entitled "Amazed by His Glory". I sent them a couple entries from this blog, and they graciously included one in the final product.
If you want to be encouraged by what God is doing around the world, I urge you to get a copy of Amazed by His Glory. The missionary stories contained therein are exciting, challenging, and God-honoring. Missionary Max is from my imagination, these stories really happened.
You can request your own copy here. When you read it, be sure not to miss my story on page 164. I was also present for the stories on page 99 and 301.
Talk back to the missionary: Read any good real-life missionary adventures lately? Tell us about them in the comments section.
January 21, 2011
The Rain in Rio
Many have asked me about the current flooding and landslides in and around the city of Rio de Janeiro. What follows is a first-hand account from the Patefields, colleagues who work in the "Cidade Maravilhosa":
Many of you are aware of the unfolding tragedy caused by the flooding in the mountains northwest of the city. Though we have had a good bit of rain in the last few weeks, we have had no major problems here at the house. The devastated areas are located about an hour and half from us. The stories that are coming from the survivors are heart-wrenching. What has made the entire situation even more tragic is the realization that alerts were issued but, because of weak communication links between different government departments, the alerts didn´t make it to most of the mountain population. They had no warning before the avalanche of water and mud engulfed entire communities. Though we do not personally know any Christians in the affected cities, we ask you to join with us in praying for God´s servants in those areas.
Please keep the people of Rio in your prayers.
January 17, 2011
The Increasing Tribe
These are a little overdue. They are pictures of our extended family together at Christmas time. Enjoy!
First a couple of our immediate family:
A more relaxed pose...especially Nathanael.
Just the two of us...
Michael and Nathanael with their American cousins.
Ma and Pa and the boys
Just the boys. There was a point in time when I was the tallest of this bunch.
The whole tribe.
As it gets increasingly difficult to get the entire family together, we are especially grateful for the time God gave us over Christmas.
January 15, 2011
Book Review Bonanza
Besides the more exciting events of our Christmas travels, I was also able to do some reading. Rather than do a separate post for each book, I will do mini-reviews of all of them in this post.
The Wars of America by Robert Leckie
I actually started reading this long before Christmas, but was able to finish it over the holidays. I found it to be a surprisingly detailed account of America's armed conflicts, beginning with the French and Indian war and concluding with Vietnam, which was still in progress at the time of the writing of the book. One thing that amazed me was how, in most cases, the resolution of one conflict led--directly or indirectly--to the next. If you are a history buff like me, this book comes highly recommended.
Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger
Another book I began before Christmas break, but finished during. So far, Simple Church is the most important book I have read on furlough. Rainer and Geiger make a strong case for "cutting the fat" from church programs, and developing a "simple" approach. While relevant to existing churches, the message is especially important for church planters. Without wanting to sound overly enthusiastic, I do believe that this book should be on the reading list of every pastor and missionary.
The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask: (With Answers) by Mark Mittleberg
A very good reference work for people confronting questions about Christianity. I would recommend it for those preparing for secular university.
The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) by Rick Riordian
Since coming to the US for furlough I have seen Rick Riordian books in every book store, and even the book section at WalMart. He seemed to write adventure for the same demographic I was aiming at with Missionary Max, so I finally decided to read one of his books. The Red Pyramid melds Egyptian mythology with twenty-first century life to make a delightful story. While for the most part I had to temporarily suspend my Christian worldview to enjoy the story, there was one exception. As the heroes of the story are being told the story of the Egyptian house of magic, they are showed the story of of Moses--the "only magician to successfully challenge the House."
Decision Points by George W. Bush
Words I would use to describe this book are "generous", "classy", "lucid". Mr. Bush sets the record straight in the straightforward manner one would expect, yet with grace and humor. One reads of the inner workings of the Bush White House, and he is candid about his failures as well as his successes. As the title suggests, the bulk of the book deals with the major decisions faced by his administration and the processes involved in making them.
Christian readers cannot help but be interested in Bush's account with his conversations with Billy Graham, and dismayed by Graham's answer when questioned about a religious lady who had never received Christ: "Some people are born Christians". Crikey!
Stupid American History by Leland Gregory
A random collection of strange facts from American history. Gregory cannot help showing his anti-Bush bias, and some of his historical facts are somewhat selective. Take for example, his bemoaning of the fact that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the peace treaty had been signed. True enough, but he neglects to mention that the treaty was signed on December 24th, and Old Hickory fought the "bloody British" on January 8. Hardly enough time for the news to travel from Belgium to Louisiana in pre-internet days.
This and other such lapses make this book a mediocre read, at best.
Stupid Christmas by Leland Gregory
Like previous book, only worse.
Boy by Roald Dahl
An account of stand-out events from the childhood of Roald Dahl, author of, among other things, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This book was assigned to our son Michael for his English class, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The stories of the mouse in the candy, and the goat droppings in the pipe were very entertaining.
If any of these books interested you, don't forget to check out our bookstore, where there are several selections that I have found helpful over the years.
Talk back to the missionary: Did you do any reading over the holidays? What were some of your favorites?
January 12, 2011
Whence Missionary Max?
While our family has been busy with adventures of its own, the Missionary Max saga has not been forgotten. Here is a brief update for those avid follower of the Missionary Max fans out there. I recently finished a complete revision of the book, making some substantial changes to the version published online. This morning I sent the manuscript to a writing contest hosted by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson. Winners will be announced here on March 1, and receive one of a variety of publishing packages. The outcome of this contest will determine future publishing efforts for Missionary Max.
I have started writing a second Missionary Max adventure, provisionally titled "Missionary Max and the Nazi Gold". So far I have finished the prologue. My goal is to finish it and begin publishing online by July.
Talk back to the missionary: Did you follow the Missionary Max series? What was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments section.
January 7, 2011
Grand Theft Missionarymobile--Part Two
If you have not yet read Part One, you can do so here.
Tuesday dawned bright and clear. I got out of bed and looked apprehensively out the window--wonder of wonders, our rental vehicle was still there. Excited about the prospect of getting to Florida, we bundled into said rental vehicle and pulled out of the driveway.
As we drove away from the house, I turned to Itacyara. "You know," I observed "every green van I see from now on is going to make me think of our van."
"Yeah." Itá agreed. "Like that one over there." I followed her gaze to the van in question. It was a Dodge Caravan, just like ours. Dark green, also just like ours. Like the Missionarymobile, it also sported a black Thule luggage carrier on the top. And NY plates...with the number FCG-6509. There was a pregnant pause, then everybody started shouting at once "THAT'S OUR VAN!!!"
I whipped the van around and pulled alongside the Missionarymobile. We were about half a block from where it had been stolen. I got on the phone to the police. The conversation went something like this>
Me: Hello, you remember me, the guy who reported the stolen vehicle yesterday?
Police: Hang on (much shuffling and asking me for details). Ok Mr. Comings, how can we help you?
Me: Well, we just found the car.
Police: You what?
Me: We just found the car.
Police: (after taking down the street information) Ok, we'll send an officer right over. Don't touch anything.
An hour later I called the police again.
Me: You said you were going to send an officer right over.
Police: He's right around the corner. He should be there any minute now.
Another half hour passed and I was about to call dispatch again when a blue-and-white finally pulled up next to us. The officer (who was very nice and extremely professional) started looking over our van. Itá and I pointed out some things we had noticed, like the spent bullet casing on the windshield.
"Well THAT's interesting!" he said as he examined the shell, wedged under the windshield wiper. "VERY interesting." He then started making calls on his cell phone, while continuing to examine the vehicle. He found other interesting items, like the pair of used latex gloves in the storage area. Amazingly, he also found the folder containing Emanuela's documents--completely intact. He gave it to her and continued his examination.
As the investigation continued the officer pointed out different things to us. He showed us, for example, how the thief had gained entrance to the van and subsequently popped out the ignition. His tool of choice? A butter knife. Amazingly, though the bandido had tried to open the Thule luggage carrier on top of the van, he was singularly unsuccessful.
This bears repeating: he broke into my van with a butter knife, yet was unable to open the plastic luggage carrier! Thus, when I gave the officer the key and he opened it up, everything I had put there two days previous was still there. This included all of Emanuela's clothes and a few of the boy's Christmas gifts.
One tough luggage carrier!!!
At just about this time the officer answered a call from dispatch. Then he came over to where I was standing.
"They're sending over someone from the crime unit. It's possible that this vehicle was involved in something big."
Prepared for another wait, I was shocked to see another blue-and-white show up almost immediately. An officer (who looked for all the world like a slightly shorter version of Michael Clark Duncan) got out. The two had a short conversation, then came over to me.
"We've got bad news." said the first officer. "It appears that your van was involved in a serious crime yesterday.
"How serious?" I asked.
"Let me put it this way," said the second officer. "We have three bodies. You can read between the lines."
The change was amazing. Just twenty-four hours earlier the stolen vehicle barely registered a blip on the police radar. Suddenly, it was the center of attention. What a difference an empty shell casing can make!
The end result was that the Missionarymobile and everything in it--including the presents and luggage in the Thule luggage carrier--were impounded as states' evidence in the investigation of some very heavy-duty crimes. As we drove away the CSI van was just arriving.
The police assured us that they would return the vehicle and everything in it as soon as they were finished with it. What they could not tell us is when that would be. I wasn't too worried, however, as we had been offered the use of another van for an unlimited time.
And that offer was good, up until that afternoon. We were about an hour outside of Winston-Salem when the owner called me.
"You're not going to believe this," he said "But I was just involved in a minor accident. I don't think the van is going to be drivable."
At this point nothing surprised me. If a giant sinkhole had opened up and swallowed our rental vehicle as we continued on to Florida, I would have probably shrugged and said "Figures."
Finally, at about 4pm on Tuesday we pulled into our Florida driveway. As we unpacked, I reflected on some of the more amazing things we have seen God do since Monday morning when we noticed our van was missing:
*The van was found.
*I had the privilege of seeing my son pray for the car thieves.
*Emanuela recovered her documents.
*There was an outpouring of prayer from our friends and supporters.
*Christmas presents arrived for our sons from unexpected places.
*A family in our church gave us gift certificates so we could replace our lost clothing.
*So far we have not spent a single day without transportation.
When the whole thing began, I posted the following on Twitter:
Uploaded with Skitch!
By this I did not mean to compare our trials to those of Job. What I do mean is that everything we own is an undeserved gift from God. When He chooses to remove those from us, we have no reason to complain. Even more when, in the removal of those items, he showered us with so many unexpected blessings.
January 6, 2011
Grand Theft Missionarymobile--Part One
"Andrew, did you park your van in the driveway last night?"
The voice penetrating my slumber belonged to Sally, our hostess for the previous two days. We had spent New Years day and the following Sunday at Capitol Allentown Baptist Ministries in Maryland, just outside of Washington DC. CAB Ministries has supported us faithfully ever since our deputation, and we were thrilled to be able to share with them what God is doing in Brazil.
As the church only had Sunday morning services we (myself, Itacyara, Michael, Nathanael, and our Brazilian friend Emanuela) were able to spend a good part of the afternoon and evening touring our nation's capital. We visited the National Air and Space Museum, the World's Largest Egyptian-Style Obelisk (aka The Washington Monument), and the Lincoln Memorial. We returned from our trip exhausted. The next day, Monday we planned to return to Florida.
The urgent voice that had disrupted my dreams was about to change all that.
"Yes..." I mumbled, trying to shake the sleep from my head. "I did park the van in the driveway."
"Oh my! It's not there anymore!"
Suddenly I was wide awake. What??? I leaped out of bed and ran for the bedroom door--then decided I should probably get dressed first. I fumbled around in the gray morning light until I found enough clothes to be considered decent, then ran upstairs and stared out the front window. Sure enough, our van was not there.
The van, which I affectionately refer to as "The Missionarymobile" contained five large suitcases full of all the luggage we had taken to New York, and all the Christmas presents we, our boys, and Emanuela had received. Even more seriously, all of Emanuela's Brazilian documents were inside.
As I stood there looking at the empty space where the van should have been, there was an initial surge of adrenaline, followed by feelings of outrage, helplessness, and frustration. Suddenly a very clear thought broke through the tossed salad of emotions: This is your chance to demonstrate a godly reaction to adverse circumstances.
In a few of our supporting churches I have shared an difficult situation we faced in Brazil, where my reaction was...shall we say...less than Christlike. Now, it was as if a ray of sun had broken through the clouds and I could see at least part of the purpose for this whole thing: I would now get a chance to demonstrate to my children, my wife, our Brazilian guest--practically anybody watching--how faith works out in adversity. In essence, God was giving me a second chance.
After a brief prayer meeting with the family, I set to work caring for the details. The next few hours were a blur of phone calls. We contacted the police (it was obvious our van was not the top priority of the day), the insurance company, and several of our friends and family members. As we put the word out on Twitter and Facebook we were inundated with responses from our friends and supporters all over the US and in Brazil, assuring us that they were praying.
And their prayers began to have an effect. Loose ends began to come together in amazing ways. A fellow-missionary contacted us saying he had a van we could use if we could get to the Winston-Salem area. Through the efforts of my sister-in-law I was able to find a good deal on a one-way rental to Winston-Salem. Then Pastor Johnson of CAB Ministries brought in a special offering for the rental.
A special blessing was to see the reaction of our oldest son, Michael, to the events. Michael is nine, and I was worried how he would respond to the sudden disappearance of virtually all his Christmas presents. As Itacyara explained the situation to him, he became a little teary-eyed. Then they began to talk about how the car thieves most likely were in need of Jesus, and how that was even more tragic than the loss of our presents. Soon they were praying for the bandidos. As I watched them I was almost happy our car had been stolen so I could witness that moment.
That evening Pastor Johnson took me to the Dulles airport where I picked up the rental vehicle. When I returned to Sally's house I found Mikey and Nathanael playing with some new toys, with others waiting in boxes. Itacyara told me that a neighbor lady who we had never met, outraged by the crime that had been committed in their normally tranquil neighborhood, had bought the presents for our sons.
While I was marveling at God's goodness, Pastor Johnson showed up with still more presents for the boys! I couldn't help but think that God was rewarding Mikey for his golden attitude that morning.
As we went to bed that evening there were still many unanswered questions. Yet--completely at odds with my normal tendencies--I was able to sleep soundly, confident that God was in control.
Meanwhile, the Missionarymobile was having some intense adventures of its own.
Read part two here.