June 27, 2011
The Passing of a Hero
Today I received word that pioneer missionary Harold Reiner had passed away.
Ever since I met him in 1989, Harold has been one of my heroes.
His son Tim had graciously invited me--then a seventeen-year-old kid who had never been outside of the country (Canada doesn't count)--to spend two months with them in Brazil. Throughout those days we worked on many projects together with Harold, and his passion for Brazil and Brazilians was contagious.
One memory that sticks out from those days is of an afternoon when he and Tim were working on the engine for the Noe II--the boat that to this day takes campers back and forth between the mainland and the Treasure Island camp. The problem (whatever it was) proved to be frustrating to both of them. Finally, Harold looked up at me and said "Well, when we've exhausted all our options, it's time to stand back and watch what God is going to do."
That phrase might well serve as a fitting summary of Harold's life and ministry. When he came to Brazil's rugged northeast region in the '40s, it was as if the man had found the country for which he was born. He mastered the Portuguese language, and, more importantly, he loved the people. I loved watching his face light up as he talked about various aspects of northeastern culture. (For a many years, until I visited the city of Exu, all I knew about the Brazilian forró singer Luís Gonzaga was what I learned from Harold)
The word "quit" was not in Harold Reiner's vocabulary. During his missionary career he suffered hardships and sorrows that would have made a lesser man leave the field. Yet Harold persevered, to become the longest-serving missionary in the history of Baptist Mid-Missions. Through every trial he maintained an unshakable belief in the sovereignty of God.
Hand-in-hand with Harold's strong belief in the sovereignty of God was his relentless work ethic. I will never forget one day when I was on Treasure Island to help with a construction project. I decided to pace myself by Harold, then in his late 70's. When he worked, I worked. When he rested, I rested. It almost killed me.
Towards the end of their career, Harold and Joan Reiner received perhaps the highest compliment possible from the people to whom they ministered. In the midst of the period of intense anti-American sentiment that swept Brazil following the US invasion of Iraq, Harold and Joan were made honorary citizens of the city of Remanso, where they had dedicated decades of their lives.
Harold Reiner's impact on my own life was formidable. His unbridled enthusiasm for Brazil and its people helped set my own heart aflame for this country. His insistence on pioneer mission work ("Missions begins where the asphalt ends", he used to say) influenced my decision to come to Maranhão, a state where our mission had yet to send missionaries. Perhaps most importantly, his unbridled optimism--when the world would have forgiven him for being a pessimist--showed me that serving Christ on the mission field is a privilege, not a burden.
Thank you, Harold, for a race well run. A multitude of lives were impacted by your dedication--mine included
Here is a touching tribute to Harold Reiner posted today by a fellow missionary.
Meet Me in São Luís: The Straight and Narrow
One of the most charming aspects of my city is the narrow streets. Actually--it is not at all charming when I am trying to navegate streets that were not designed for cars, and in which even my matchbox-sized Fiat has trouble fitting. The charming part comes in when I am wandering around Reviver, the historic part of town. Then I can imagine myself going back to colonial times when these same streets were home to the Portuguese merchants, traders, and fidalgos.
The above is one of those streets. I may never be able to explore all the side streets and alleys in the Reviver district, but I plan to give it my best shot.
June 26, 2011
Jonah Silverberg Update--Cardiac Arrest and Aftermath
It has been a while since I posted an update from fellow missionaries Marty and Val Silverberg (serving in Bronx, NY) regarding their infant son, Jonah. Many have been asking what has happened. Previous updates can be seen here.
The following is from the two most recent e-mails they have sent out:
Dear Praying Friends, As i write this e-mail, Jonah is in cardiac arrest. The team of doctors is working feverishly over himto try to revive him. After 2 weeks in Blythedale in Val Halla NY, Jonah had respiratory distress on Sat. and was transferred back to the Bronx to the PICU. He was better until he underwent a Barium procedure and X-Rays, when he developed a fever. Last night he was revived from cardiac arrest, now he he in arrest again. Jonah will be 6 months old on Tuesday, Lord willing. Thank you so very much for your prayers.
A few days later we received this report:
Dear Praying Family, Jonah was resuscitated and is now resting under sedation.This has been very difficult. God is very good to us. Thank you for your prayers. In Christ's Love, Marty for Val
It is easy to type the words "God is very good to us" when things are going well. You know a person really believes it, however, when they can write it while facing the kind of trials Mary and Val have been facing.
Previous updates can be seen here.
June 21, 2011
For the last month we have been in the "moving in" process. We finally have some areas of the house that are actually organized to the point that they are photo-ready.
Here, then, is the first episode of "Missionary Cribz".
This is the front of our house. For a long time the two wooden chairs on either side of the swing served as living-room furniture while our sofa was being redone. Finally they are able to assume their rightful place on the front patio.
Mikey is currently finishing up his online studies, and therefore a corner of the living room is designated as "school".
The remainder of our living room. And, in keeping with the sub-theme of "pictures of the back of people's head", that is me on the new sofa, immersed in some deep theological tome.
I'm still not sure how the plastic alligator fits into the decor.
On the next episode of "Missionary Cribz" we will see the boys' bedroom and my office.
Meet Me in São Luís: Old Pictures
Meet Me in São Luís is an ongoing series, the purpose of which is to educate the world at large about the beautiful, enchanting, little-known city of São Luís, Maranhão.
Recently, in looking for some pictures of my adopted city, I came across this Flickr set of São Luís of yesteryear. I thought it would be a great way to kick off this series, aimed at showing you the beauty and old-world majesty of the city we love. The owner of the Flickr page, Manoel Pereira, has graciously given me permission to post these here. Be sure to check out the rest of this photo series, as well as other pictures he has posted of São Luís.
Now, on to the pictures:
This is a vintage shot of the military police barracks. Still intact, it is less than three kilometers from our house. The neighborhood is called João Paulo, and we do most of our day-to-day business there.
This building is now called the "Commerce Palace", and it is in the "old downtown" of São Luís. The comment on the picture says that it used to be the Hotel Central.
The city courthouse. It is still there, and still serves the same function.
The Igreja da Sé.
The Praça João Lisboa. This looks a lot different now.
This church still exists, but it is much worse for the wear. Still, its spires are the first signs of the "old city" that I see as I drive from my home to the downtown area.
Another view of the Praça João Lisboa, ca 1910.
A road called Rua da Estrela, from around 1905. The neat thing about São Luís is that, apart from the ox carts, there are still many roads you can walk down which look much like this.
The caption on this photo says that it is the Praça Deodoro. If that is true, it is now one of the busiest, most crowded sections of downtown São Luís.
An aerial shot of what is now called Reviver--the original downtown area of São Luís. This is where I go to work on the Missionary Max series. When I need inspiration I simply wander these streets and imagine that I am in downtown Santo Expedito.
This area is still much as the picture shows, with a few notable exceptions. There is now a four-lane highway between the buildings and the ocean. Also, the triangle of land jutting into the photo on the right is full of high-rise apartment and commercial buildings. It represents the "new downtown" of São Luís.
June 20, 2011
Drive-By Book Reviews
Frustrating though it was, the weeks we spent without internet access did give me the chance to catch up on some reading. What follows are some quick reviews of some of the better books I have read over the last couple months.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Part of an ongoing project to read Chesterton's works. Orthodoxy is without a doubt one of the GKC classics, and deservedly so. A ringing defense of Christianity in the face of rising skepticism and apathy--very relevant today, though written over a century ago. As always, he loses me when his defense of Christianity veers into a defense of Rome.
Rapid Rating: If you are at all interested in Christian apologetics, you must read this book.
Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith by John Jackson Miller
What if there were a lost civilization made up entirely of the Sith? What would it be like? Author John Jackson Miller takes up this idea in his series of six short works, available (for now) as free e-books on Amazon.
Rapid Rating: Some great escapist reading--even better if you happen to be a Star Wars fan.
Adopted for Life by Russel D. Moore
Dr. Moore speaks with a passion born of experience as he advocates adoption. He is the father of two boys, adopted as infants from an orphanage in Russia. Yet the basis for the book is not merely sociological or experiential. Rather, it is deeply theological. The entire work is laced with references and analogies to the believer's adoption in Christ.
Rapid Rating: Six stars out of five. If you have adopted, are thinking of adopting, know someone who has adopted, or have been adopted into the family of Christ, you should really read this book.
The New Jerusalem by G.K. Chesterton
Another in my quest for Chesterton. This is a travel journal of sorts, recounting the author's visit to the Holy Land. Much of the material is dated, but there are the usual pearls of wisdom and insight one can expect in any Chesterton work. He makes some interesting points about the Crusades, and his observations on the (then theoretical) Jewish nation are fascinating.
Chesterton succeeded in making annoying me, however, with some of his comments about the Jewish people. In particular, he criticized them for taking on European names, conveniently ignoring the fact that they were required to do so to escape persecution by his beloved Roman Catholics.
Rapid Rating: Not the greatest of Chesterton's works, but still worth the read.
A Concise History of Brazil by Boris Fausto
Meticulously researched and masterfully translated, this book is a great resource for anybody looking for a straightforward, largely unbiased history of Brazil. Even though I have spent the last twenty-two years studying my adopted land, I learned many things through this book.
Rapid Rating: Want to know about Brazil? This is a great place to start.
These and other great books are available at our Amazon Bookstore. Please go and check it out. A purchase there will send a small contribution to this ministry!
June 18, 2011
Dia dos Namorados Event
Brazilian's celebrate their equivalent of Valentines Day on June 12th. As that fell on a Sunday this year, the Kerigma congregation held a Dia dos Namorados event on the 11th.
Despite the date, romance was in the air!
June 17, 2011
My First Funeral
Two nights ago I was awakened by what sounded like bare feet shuffling in front of our door. I jumped out of the hammock (ok, I half-rolled, half-fell out of the hammock) ready to do battle with the intruder.
To my great relief, it turned out to be a medium-sized waterfowl (we still don't know what kind) that had fallen into our front courtyard.
The next morning we found it still cowering in the corner. Further inspection revealed that it had a broken leg. Throughout the day Michael, our animal-loving firstborn, tried desperately to nurse it back to health. Sadly, all of his efforts were in vain, and in the late hours of the afternoon the bird (christened "Birdy Bird" by Nathanael), departed this life. A disconsolate Michael came into the living room, cradling the limp body in his arms.
"He didn't make it!" he wailed. He put the bird in the yard and went to his room and sobbed. The normally cheerful Nathanael was sober, more because his older brother was crying than because of the passing of "Birdy Bird".
I went into Michael's room, sat down next to him on the bed, and held him for a few minutes. Then we decided that Birdy Bird should have a proper funeral. Michael got a box, decorated it with some flowers, and the two boys and I set out in the car to find a suitable final resting place. A couple kilometers down the road we found a nice wooded area complete with flowers. We placed the makeshift coffin among the flowers, and gathered around.
I said a few words about how God made the animals for our enjoyment, and how the death of Birdy Bird was a reminder of how sin caused death in the world. Then we joined hands and I prayed, thanking God that, for people, Christ had died so that, one day, there would be no more death.
It was a tender, father-son-son moment--one I will treasure for as long as I live.
Michael has recovered from his loss, and is already talking about the next animal we are going to get--probably a cat or a dog...or a lizard.
June 16, 2011
Missionary Max Update
I have been surprised and pleased over the last several months as many readers have expressed their enjoyment of the Missionary Max series. Several people have asked me if there will be more.
Therefore it is with great pleasure that I make the following announcement:
Missionary Max is in the process of being published!
The good folks at Creative Fuel Studios out of Poulsbo, Washington read the Missionary Max manuscript, and offered to publish it. It will appear first as an e-book, and then, hopefully, in traditional book format. Not only that, but they have contracted me to write three (3) more books in the series between now and October, 2012.
So, there is much more Missionary Max on the horizon. This has been in the works for some time, and much progress has already been made. I have seen and approved the rough draft of the first cover. I have received the edited copy from one of the staff editors (who, incidentally, runs an outstanding blog on books and writing and such), and have returned it with corrections for her approval. Shortly there will be a Facebook page and other such things. Of course I will be updating you here as soon as I can with any new developments.
Because this is now an official copyrighted work (woo hoo!) I am going to have to remove most of the Missionary Max posts from this blog. But that's ok, because the manuscript has undergone mucho improvements since it was first posted here. In a salute to pure, unadulterated capitalism, I am leaving the first chapter up so new readers can get a little taste of what the series is all about.
A big THANK YOU to all who were a great encouragement during the process. My prayer is that this fictional missions adventure will serve to inspire young people (and perhaps some not-so-young people) to pursue the very real adventure of missions
June 14, 2011
Scouting in Brazil
Some may remember that, while on furlough, Michael joined a Boy Scout troop. He greatly enjoyed this activity, and so, on our arrival in Brazil, we sought out a local troop for him to join.
Saturday was his first event with the troop, and he loved it!
I must say that I was very impressed with their program. Michael had a blast!
During the activities, I had the opportunity to get to know many of the leaders and parents. Upon finding out that I was a missionary, one of the leaders asked me if I would come give the scouts a talk about the Bible as part of their training.
Of course I agreed!
June 10, 2011
Welcome to Maranhão!
It has been about a month and a half since our arrival for our second term in Brazil. Here is a quick summary of major events during that time.
Renting a house. This was our first major hurdle. After several days of searching we finally found a three-bedroom home in a decent neighborhood. Our son Michael had been praying earnestly since before we left the US for a house with a tree in the backyard. The house we rented has a beautiful Mango tree--suitable for climbing. (In unrelated news, I have handed Mikey a list things for which he is to be praying.)
Buying a car. This involved a trip to the Cariri (16 hours by bus) and a wait of almost two weeks. God provided for us a new, red(!) Fiat Mille Way. Having driven it now on all types of roads and in all kinds of weather, we have to say that we are quite pleased with it.
Moving. Most of our earthly belongings were stored here in São Luís before we left. When we arrived here we found that termites had found their way to the storage unit. Apparently they were termites with a taste for literature and theology, because they took quite readily to my books. Their tastes in this area proved to be eclectic--they devoured with equal enthusiasm my copy of "The Fundamentals" and "The Shack". We are grateful, however, for the number of items the termites did NOT eat.
Internet. After a wait of almost a month, the company I had contracted to install our internet service arrived. After puttering around for a couple hours they came to me with the bad news: they would be unable to install my service because my neighborhood has no access. (sigh) So I went out and found a wireless service that features a USB modem. Not exactly wi-fi, but it works, and Mikey should be able to finish up his online studies.
Ministry. There has been no lack of opportunities to minister. As I mentioned earlier, we are just a few blocks from the Kerigma congregation, started by Pastor Francisco Bezerra. While we get our feet on the ground here we are helping this congregation in any way possible. This has included preaching, teaching, music, youth group, and other special events.
We also had the privilege of speaking in one of the other Regular Baptist churches in town. It was great to see Pastor Samuel and his wife Julia. We first met them in 2005 when we arrived at the seminary--they were in their final year of studies. Now they have been ministering here in São Luis for almost five years, and God has truly blessed their ministry.
So there you have our latest update. When I get a chance I will add pictures. There are some pretty exciting developments on the horizon, so stay tuned!
June 2, 2011
A Quiet Strength
We are still waiting breathlessly for the internet to be connected at our house here in São Luís. The providor (ironically called "Jet") assures me that they will call me "any time now" to set up a time for the installation.
In the mean time, all my online business is being cared for on infrequent trips to a local mall. This is why this particular post is going up today and not yesterday.
You may remember me mentioning the excellent blog A Quiet Strength, published by my sister-in-law Kalyn. Several weeks ago she asked me to write a guest post about Brazil as part of her "Pray for Every Nation" project. I sent her the article, and you can read it here.