October 27, 2011

Adventures in the Sertão

Yesterday Pastor Francisco and I returned, safe and sound, from a whirlwind tour of the states of Piaui, Pernambuco, Bahia, and Ceará. The occasion was the annual conference of MAB, the Baptist Auxiliary Mission here in NE Brazil. Pastor Francisco is a MAB missionary, and I am on the advisory board.

This year's conference was hosted by the churches in the São Francisco Valley. On the first night Pastor Francisco and I challenged the folks at the Juazeiro da Bahia church about the opportunities here in São Luís. It was also an unexpected treat to spend time with Pastor Domício and his wife, Adriana--friends from our seminary days (pictured above).

The cool thing about going to the São Francisco Valley is that I always run into people who knew me "way back when"--and by "way back" I mean 1989, when I first set foot in Brazil. This is the case of the couple pictured above, who were members of the youth group of the Casa Nova church in those days.

A trip to Casa Nova on Sunday brought another "blast from the past", this one in the form of Pastor Francimar (above), who studied with Itacyara. Francimar is now the pastor of the Casa Nova church, which was the first church I ever visited in Brazil.

After the service at Casa Nova, all the MAB missionaries got together at Afonso's, which features Grilled Goat as it's main menu item.

The above picture shows Pastor Francisco with other MAB missionaries, board members, and people from the Casa Nova church.

With some time to kill, we drove around Casa Nova for a while. We were surprised at the number and variety of Fuscas (VW Beetles) we saw.

It was also a time for me to reminisce a little. This is the house where I stayed on my first Brazilian adventure, back in the 80's.

We finished up our time in the São Francisco Valley with a feast at a little Italian pizza place in Petronlina. How there came to be an Italian pizza place in the middle of the Brazilian sertão is a convoluted story that involves--among other things--the mafia. (no, really, it's true!)

In the above picture we are hanging out with some MAB missionaries, and my friend and colleague Tim Reiner.

There were other adventures--including a brush with death--that will have to wait until another time.


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October 22, 2011

What People Are Saying about Missionary Max

It has been a couple weeks since the debut of The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max (part one of three parts), and we have been gratified by the number of people who have purchased it. Some have even left comments in various places, and these have been very encouraging as well. Here are a couple of them.

From Pete, as seen on the Amazon page:


It is excellent...Great artwork and great imagination in creating the characters and the story...

FYI, the artwork he refers to is the cover picture.

And, from Joy on the Missionary Max Facebook Page:

I read the first part of the E-book and I am waiting for the next! Love the story!

Have you read the first part yet? What are your impressions? Leave us a review in the comments section, on the Facebook page, or on Amazon.


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October 21, 2011

Deep Brazil

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently stumbled upon an outstanding blog called Deep Brazil. Regina, the author, works very hard to present Brazil as she really is, digging deeper than the popular (mis) conceptions of samba, rainforest, and soccer.

Because I am such a fan of this blog, it was an honor to be mentioned by her today. She posted an article featuring vintage postcards from Rio, and included some we had posted here from Guy McLain's collection.

Check out her post (the other photos are stunning as well), and get to know her blog. The only way to know Brazil better is to visit it yourself.


Don't forget to get your very own copy of The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max!

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October 19, 2011

Musical Interlude: 1920's Medley

This one's just for fun, folks. A medley of '20s tunes by the incomparable Spike Jones and his City Slickers. Watching this helped me relieve a little stress, perhaps it will have the same effect on you...



Who is Missionary Max? Click here to find out!

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October 18, 2011

Lego Creations

I came home the other night to find Mikey and his neighborhood friends gathered around the table, busily putting together some Lego creations. I was impressed with the detail and creativeness they demonstrated. Here are some of the finished products:

Not sure what's it's called, but it's got Jar Jar Binks, and that's all that really matters.

As far as I know this one isn't in any Star Wars movie, but it should be!

Mikey's friends, with there magnum opus.

Mikey with a couple of his creations.

This post is not entirely unrelated to ministry. Through their relationship with Mikey, and the Sunday morning English classes Itacyara is giving, these boys have started attending our congregation.


Have you read The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max? If not, go here now!

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October 17, 2011

The Showdown on Ze Bom Bom Hill

Behind our Kerigma congregation stretches a sizable neighborhood called "Coroadinho". It is known as a hotbed of crime and violence. Within this neighborhood--and within sight of our church--is a hill named after a colorful figure from Coroadinho's past known as "Ze Bom Bom". If Coroadinho is a hurricane of crime, Ze Bom Bom hill is it's epicenter.

And at the foot of Ze Bom Bom hill is a house where I go every Monday morning for a small-group Bible study.

Last Monday, as I arrived, I noticed emergency vehicles and TV reporters leaving the area. Right behind me was a police unit, which stationed itself at the entrance to the road which leads up to Ze Bom Bom. Greeting me at the door, the young man who hosts the Bible study filled me in on what went down.

Up until recently the drug traffic on the hill was controlled by an ex police officer. At the beginning of the year, however, he was arrested and is currently in jail. Sensing an opportune moment, the leader of a rival gang decided to take over one of the points of sale (called a boca de fumo). This upstart--nicknamed Olhão, or "Big Eye"--packed his revolver and started up the hill.

Unfortunately for Big Eye, the gang in control was not nearly as disorganized as he thought. The ex police officer continues to run things from jail, and his two sons have things well in hand "on the ground". Big Eye was met by an armed posse, and died on the street, a bullet through his chest.

When news of their leader's demise reached them, members of Big Eye's gang grabbed their own guns and went on a shooting rampage through the streets. One of their bullets hit a woman who owned a little store in the neighborhood, and she died. Onlookers identified her shooter and went on their own rampage, burning down his house.

For the past week the police have been intensifying their presence on the hill. Helicopters fly over constantly, and heavily armed patrols cover the area.

Police Officers Guard Ze Bom Bom
Police officers at a check-point on Ze Bom Bom hill. Image Source

All of this goes to illustrate the desperate need for the Gospel in this area. Of course things like poverty, poor living conditions, lack of police supervision, and corruption contribute to the violence. But what the neighborhood really needs in Christ.

Pray for our Bible study, which is currently being attended by four young men who would be logical targets for the drug dealers. They are but a drop in the bucket of the teeming mass of young people that is Coroadinho.

Pray also that the light of the Gospel will shine out from our little congregation into the darkness of Coroadinho and Zé Bom Bom.




Read about the Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max on your Kindle or Nook.

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October 12, 2011

A Missionary Max Update

Thumbnail image for 136195019.JPGWe have been gratified by the positive response to the publication of The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max, Part 1 ebook. Since it's release, there have been a couple more developments.

1. For all you Nook users out there, Missionary Max is now available for you.

2. Missionary Max has his own Twitter account, which can be followed here.

3. There is also a Missionary Max Facebook page. Like it, share it with your friends!


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The Sleeping Giant Awakes

First, this is a wine ad. Truth in advertisement would dictate that the slogan be "Keep Staggering, Brazil". Second, I get the irony of the "If you drink, don't drive" warning at the end which appears with the "Keep Walking" line.

Yet, this is an interesting graphic representation of how many Brazilians perceive their country. There is a spreading optimism about Brazil, her future, and her place in the world. And this ad captures that nicely.




Have you seen The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max? Check it out here!

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October 11, 2011

New Member of the Family

Please join us in welcoming our newest family member: Scooby Lu (aka Scoobinha)



Don't miss my book, The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max.

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October 10, 2011

Musical Interlude: Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring

One of the best arrangements of this classic that I have ever heard. Enjoy!


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October 8, 2011

Juventude Kerigma

When we decided to dedicate our efforts to graduating the Kerigma church plant, one of the areas we observed where we could make the biggest impact was in the youth group. When we arrived, the congregation had various children's ministries, but no real youth program. As a result, over the last five years many children grew to adolescence in the church, and then drifted away.

Once we made the decision to invest in the youth program we spent about a month in planning with some of the church young people, the senior pastor, and a couple adult sponsors.

Finally, we held our big inauguration rally this Saturday. Thanks be to God, it was a smashing success. There were about 40 people in attendance, 18 of whom were visiting young people from the community.

Here are a few pictures:


Me, giving a welcome message to the kids.


Some of the visitors, including two guys we have been witnessing to for a couple months. It was their first time in our church.


The Catholic Church has officially denied the existence of Limbo, but apparently it is alive and well among Baptists.


A highlight of the evening was the Q and A time. The questions from our visitors were deep, and Pastor Francisco and I had many opportunities to share the Gospel.

Our second meeting will be later this evening. Our young people are very excited. Please pray that God would continue to bless their effort. Our neighborhood is full of young people who are being seduced by the deadly influences around them.

They desperately need Christ.


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Tools for the Modern Missionary: RSS Feeds

One of the greatest challenges for the foreign missionary is staying current with what is going on in the rest of the world. Admittedly, this is more difficult on some fields than on others. And, with the advent of the internet, being up-to-date is not the obstacle it once was.

But then again, the internet presents it's own unique problem: the sheer volume of information available. Missionaries lead very busy lives, and have no time to be constantly scanning the internet in search of good material. Even when the missionary knows what he wants to research, a simple Google search will turn up literally dozens of items which have to be weeded out and organized.

How to deal with this information overload? I have found the secret to be in three letters: RSS

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication". Put succinctly, it is a line of code embedded within a website which allows the user to subscribe to the content, using an application called a "aggregator".

In practice, this is how it works. You have found a site (this one, for example) that constantly provides useful information. However, you have no time to be constantly checking back with the site for updates. Therefore, you open your aggregator and paste the URL (web address) of the site into the appropriate space. The aggregator then "subscribes" to the site. From now on, every time you open your aggregator, you will see all the updates to the site. You can chose to read or ignore them. Many aggregators allow you to organize your "feeds" (subscriptions) by subject, author, etc.

Here is my own system: every morning when I open up my computer, I check my feeds. I have no time to read everything, but if a headline looks interesting, or looks like something that will be useful for research in the future, I open it in my browser, and immediately save it to Evernote. For example, there has been a small controversy stirring within reformed circles about the nature of the Trinity. This has resulted in some good articles on the subject--articles that will come in handy when I teach this subject to our congregation. In these two easy steps these articles are saved forever for future reference.

Aggregators

In order to take advantage of the RSS technology, you need an aggregator. Perhaps the most widely used aggregator is Google Reader. It is web based, and very user friendly.

As a Mac user, I have thoroughly enjoyed Grumle. It is easy to use, integrates well with Firefox, and can be accessed while offline.

Feeds

Here is a list of some of the more profitable feeds in my list, according to categories:

Theology

Team Pyro Phil Johnson and his posse address major issues of the day from a Biblical perspective. Always thought-provoking.
Biblical Christianity One of the members of the Pyro team, Dan Philips often offers up good observations here as well. Also, his "Hither and Thither" posts are very entertaining.
Sharper Iron Great commentary from a Fundamentalist perspective. I have been privileged to write book reviews for them on occasion.
Justin Taylor More than others, Justin seems to have his finger on what is going on in the Christian world.
More than Tennis My Dad's consistently thought-provoking blog.
Albert Mohler One of the more brilliant theologians of our day. Give yourself a theological treat, and read what he has to say.
Divine Satisfaction My bro's blog. He's been away from it for a while, but hopefully he will be back with a vengeance soon.
The Resurgence I don't always agree with everything (actually, that goes for most blogs on the list) but this blog is consistently informative.
White Horse Inn Michael Horton's online ministry. It doesn't get any deeper than this on the internet.
Challies No list of theological feeds would be complete without Tim Challies' keen insights.
The Feminine Intellect No, it's not a contradiction in terms. It's a blog run by my sister-in-law, with lots of good stuff for us menfolk as well.

Missions

Ed Stetzer One of the most outstanding missions thinkers around today. If your heart beats for missions, Stetzers blog is for you.
Missionary Blog Watch As close as you get to an exhaustive list of missionary blogs from around the world.

Leadership

Michael Hyatt It is a rare day that I don't glean something useful from this blog. Michael Hyatt is the former CEO (and current president of the board) of Thomas Nelson publishers.

Brazil

The Rio Times English Language newspaper containing up-to-date news from Rio and the rest of Brazil.
Deep Brazil A blog that tries--and succeeds--to get beyond the common US stereotypes of Brazil and Brazilians.

Missionaries

I follow several missionary bloggers, and all of them are good. Here are some of the ones I consider the best:

The Jungle Hut Formerly in Venezuela, forced to leave by Hugo Chavez, now serving in Paraguay, Rita has lots of great stories to tell. You will get a great picture of missionary life from her blog.
Missionary to Melbourn John was in candidate school with us, and is currently serving with BMM in Australia. He is a deep thinker, who writes some challenging posts.
Jewell Page A colleague here in Brazil. He consistently shares good devotional thoughts, as well as goings on in his ministry.
Kari in Peru Kari is from one of our supporting churches, and is serving as a short-term missionary in Peru.

Politics

See if you can guess which way I pull the lever from the blogs listed below:

Michelle Malkin Corrupt politicians beware!
Hot Air Keeps me up to date on the goings on of the right side of the aisle.

For Fun

The Brothers Brick Inspiring Lego creations, including this amazing reproduction of the Cristo Redentor statue in Rio.
Twenty Two Words Abraham Piper's collection of the weird and wonderful from around the world wide web.

There are other feeds on my aggregator, but these are the ones that consistently provide quality content that is worth the time expended to read it.

Do you know of a particularly interesting blog that would make a nice addition to my feed? Let me know in the comments section!


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October 3, 2011

Major, Huge, Ginormous Announcement

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting (drum roll please...) The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max (part 1)!

That's right, the first part of the Missionary Max saga has been released as an e-book. Right now only the Kindle version is available, but a Nook version should be forthcoming.

I have set up a page for all Missionary Max related things here, and it appears that Max himself has acquired Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Tell your friends!


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...And We're Back

Stay tuned, later on today there will be a major, huge, ginormous announcement!


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