July 30, 2011

Meet Me in São Luís: The Music Conservatory

This post is part of an ongoing series which seeks to introduce the readership of this blog to the many fascinating aspects of one of Brazil's best-kept secrets--the city of São Luís.

On one of my more recent ventures into downtown São Luís I happened to see a post card of a beautiful facade in a local bookstore. I had never noticed such a building in all my wanderings in the historical district.

The Facade

Later on that afternoon I found myself looking through a fence at an enticingly shaded garden area, and at the end of the garden, the building I had seen earlier in the post-card. A friendly gardener named João informed me that there was an entrance around front. It turns out that this former mansion is now used as a music conservatory.

When I went in the front, I was a little disappointed. All the old-world charm has been removed from that part of the building, and been replaced by impersonal desks and counter tops, manned by equally impersonal government employees. When I inquired about seeing the inside of the mansion, they waved me back, giving me a look as if to say "sure, go ahead, if you think you'll see anything interesting".

I am so glad I didn't let them bring me down!

Once I got past the criminally modernized front section of the building, and climbed a stone staircase to the second floor, I found myself in a world of three centuries ago. Another staircase (this one metal) took me to the third floor. The final staircase was wooden, and appears to have been installed by the original builders.

It's as rickety as it looks!

Taking my life in my hands, I climbed the precarious spiral staircase to the fourth floor. There, light flooded in from a window, and I was drawn to a handrail. There I stood--as perhaps some 18th century cotton baron had stood--and caught my breath at the spectacular view presented to me. The entire Reviver (or Praia Grande) historical district was laid out before my eyes.

The Reviver district, from the fourth floor of the music conservatory.

In the background I could hear music students singing lines from an opera, interrupted at various intervals by their Italian professors. With little effort I could place myself in the São Luís of yesteryear.

Recently I watched a Brazilian movie set in the colonial period. The story is based on facts that took place in 18th century Rio, but to film those scenes, they used 20th century São Luís, specifically the Reviver district. If you come to visit us, this amazing section of our city will be one of our first stops.

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July 27, 2011

Kerigma VBS

What follows are some pictures of the VBS last week at the Kerigma congregation.

The lovely and multi-talented Itacyara (aka The Brazilian Bombshell) was in charge of the event. She had been planning it--together with several ladies from our church--almost since our arrival two-and-a-half months previous. On the last day there were over 60 kids in attendance--an outstanding achievement and a great encouragement for this little church-plant.

Of course, we had to have puppets. While I am reluctant to be defined as "the puppet guy" at this phase in our ministry, it was neat to set up the stage once again. Three very eager young people from the congregation helped out, and, of course, the puppets were very well received by the youngsters.

Samyr is Pastor Francisco Bezerra's son, and a phys-ed instructor at a local school. He came up with the activity time for the kids. And they were active!

On the last day each of the workers received a black cloth to use as a neckerchief. Of course, some people just have to be different.

This little boy's name is Oswaldo, and he became great friends with the puppet formerly known as Bruno.

On a serious note, I was very pleased with how Gospel-centered the proceedings were--from the songs to the Bible stories, to the puppet skits. Please pray as we follow up with these young people. All of them live within walking distance of our church (and there are many more where they came from!). Most are unsaved. Many come from devastating home situations. Please pray that, somehow, VBS will not be the last we see of them.

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Law vs Grace

This little poem, found over at Justin Taylor's blog, made my morning.

Run, John, and work, the law commands,
yet finds me neither feet nor hands,

But sweeter news the gospel brings,
it bids me fly and lends me wings!

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July 26, 2011

11 Years and Counting

A whirlwind schedule and limited internet connectivity have combined since the tenth of this month to form the perfect storm for non-communication. Result: mucho updating to do before sending out next prayer letter.

We will start with my favorite set of photos from the past several weeks: the celebration of 11 years of marriage to the Brazilian Bombshell.

For the weekend of our anniversary we were able to get away to a nice little chalet near the beach here in São Luís. The boys stayed with friends, and we had Friday and Saturday to ourselves. It was wonderful!

On a bench at the chalet

On Friday night we had dinner "on the town", and took in a capoeira demonstration.

This is me, assuming my best "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" pose.

Same hat, but somehow it looks a lot better in this picture.

Some have asked why I refer to my wife as "The Brazilian Bombshell". I submit the above photo as "Evidence A", and rest my case.

This photo is missing something...

Ah, much better!

Thank you, Lord, for demonstrating Your grace (unmerited favor) in my life in the form of this lovely woman. Help me to somehow make it worth her while!

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July 10, 2011

Holy Birthday Party, Batman!

Our youngest son turned 4 Wednesday, and, in accordance with an ancient and well-respected Comings tradition, we celebrated his birthday on Friday.

The theme of the party was Batman, and the house...er...bat cave...was decorated accordingly.

Evildoers beware!

Mommy and Batman!
Batman and Mommy

Nathanael surrounded by cousins and friends

Opening Presents
Nathanael opening presents while Mikey looks on

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July 8, 2011

Informative Graph

Inspired by a similar graph by an (equally frustrated, it would seem) Australian over at Biblical Christianity, I put together this little visual of how people in the US usually respond when I tell them I live in Brazil:

What People Say When I Tell Them I Live in Brazil

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July 7, 2011

Harold Reiner: 60 Years of Missionary Service

A couple days ago I posted a tribute to veteran missionary Harold Reiner, who had just entered the presence of his Savior. The following video was recently posted on Facebook by Harold Reiner's daughter-in-law. With her gracious permission I post it here.

The video was made in 2008, so some things are a little out of date. Yet, the impact of a life passionately dedicated to Christ and the Gospel comes through loud and clear.

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If At First You Don't Succeed...

...fail, fail again!

I have been given the task of making promotional posters for our upcoming VBS and for Itacyara's English School. Tonight I decided to tackle the project. First, the VBS poster:

Truth Detectives

"Come be Truth Detectives!" I thought this was a very cool concept. Unfortunately, my most valuable critic (aka "The Brazilian Bombshell) panned it as soon as she saw it. Too "grown up" was the verdict.

Undaunted, I set to work on the English school poster:

English School Poster

Seriously, I felt that this was some of my best work. The powers that be (once again, aka "The Brazilian Bombshell) was less than impressed.

For what it's worth, the lion is thinking to himself "That beaver is making me hungry!" It's comedy gold, I tell you!

Sigh. I should probably get some sleep before I tackle this again.

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July 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nay Nay

Our second-born, Nathanael (aka Nay Nay) is four today!

Nay Nay

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July 5, 2011

Itacyara Has Class

English class, that is. (She has plenty of the other kind too, of course.) Last week she took on the ministry of offering free English classes to the community on Sunday mornings. As the little congregation we work at has no morning Sunday School class, she holds them in the church building.

This Sunday was her second class, and it had increased from six to eight students. We have started advertising in the community, and interest seems to be growing. Pray that this would be an open door for the Gospel.

Professora Itá
Professora Itacyara

Attentive Class
An attentive class

Group Study
Working in small groups

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Book Review: Put Your Dream to the Test by John Maxwell

The fireworks explode, the music soars, and Cinderella Castle turns from pastel-pink to pastel-blue to pastel-green. As Tinkerbell zooms overhead, Jiminy Cricket's winsome voice intones the immortal lyrics: "When you wish upon a star, you dreams come true."

Sitting midst of this mass service dedicated to the worship of the god of good feelings, I have often wondered that Disney has not been sued by those whose dreams did not come true. At the very least, the extravaganza should include an airplane flying over the castle towing a banner with the words "results may vary".

Clearly, culture has bought into the mantra that your dream deserves to be fulfilled because...well...because it's is your dream.

Herein lies the value of John Maxwell's book Put Your Dream to the Test. In it, he offers several tests that can be applied to our dreams to see if they are worthwhile, achievable, and beneficial.

I have never read a John Maxwell book without taking away something of value. This one was no exception. Missionaries have big dreams (if they don't, they might want to consider another line of work), and it is easy for us to fall into the same pitfalls as everybody else when it comes to fulfilling those dreams.

My only concern with Put Your Dream to the Test is one I share with other Maxwell books--namely, the complete lack of the Gospel. I understand that the purpose of the book is not evangelistic, and the argument could be made that Maxwell is no more obligated to include the Gospel in a book about fulfilling one's dreams than is the Christian author of a bicycle repair manual.

Yet..it seems that the subject matter of life goals should include something about the Ultimate Goal. Surely an evangelical writer should not miss such a golden opportunity to share the "evangel". Incredibly, even when an illustration from the life of William Wilberforce provides him with the perfect setup for the gospel, that all-important, career-defining factor in Wilberforce's life is completely skipped over.

So with that caveat, I recommend to you Put Your Dreams to the Test. May your dreams be audacious, worthwhile, and achievable. And above all, may they revolve around the Gospel of Christ.

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July 4, 2011

Now That It's Almost Over...

...happy 4th of July, to all our stateside readers!

"Uncle Sam's Birthday. 1776- July 4th 1918. 142 Years Young and Going Strong."

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