Sunday, November 27, 2005

Should I Eat It or Dive on Top of It?

Originally uploaded by russandval.
This little grenade-like fruit is called a pinha here in Bahia, which is not only confusing for Spanish speakers (because that's the name of a pineapple), but for Brazilians as well. In southern Brazil, the fruit is known as a fruta do conde. It has a leathery skin, and each bump includes a seed surrounded by white flesh that is the consistency of yogurt when it's ripe. Although it is a chore to eat, it is very sweet and tropical. Thus endeth the fruit lesson for today. I did do some research online for what constitutes tropical fruit. Apparently in North America, a basket of apples with an orange and a banana thrown in will count as tropical. Oh well, here's to you, grenade fruit!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Back to School

This weekend, a new feeling hit me. We are ready to go back to school. By that I mean it feels like we have been living in a new city during summer break (which is ironic because every school here is about to go on summer break). But summer's over (metaphorically speaking) and it's time to start our real lives. It's time to get to work. Even though our learning process has been hard, it doesn't compare to actually being among people as we make them part of our lives. This is what going back to school means.

We have to take all of our words, all of our fears, time and energy, and jump into ministry here with both feet. If we hold back and wait for a good reason to change our routines, we will never find one, and our lives will look like a permanent vacation in a very nice place. But God is giving us the opportunity to go meet the people he has already met; people who want to give everything to Him. We will give our lives to them as well, and in the process, get to see a very real part of what God is doing on Earth today. Every chance "bom dia" is another chance to change two lives forever.

One of my friends told me that he hoped I would make more Brazilian friends than American ones. That's the key to going back to school. You can bring people into your world, or you can join them in theirs and affect it forever. We are ready to begin.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Preacher Man

Here's the photographic evidence of the aforementioned sermon.
 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My First Portuguese Lesson

Last Sunday, we took a bus with Travis, Alicia and Randy about an hour from our house to the edge of the city. If you've seen the size of the bay we're on, you will know how far it is to the inside corner of it. That's where we went, to a bairro called Alto de Coutos. One of the younger Churches of Christ asked us to come and speak to them once a month over the next few months. We thought it was a great idea, and I took the first month. The church recently moved from a rented building into the patio of one of the members. This was a great blessing to them, because their facility is free. It was also a blessing to us, because we got to be in the most beautiful front row scene I have ever laid eyes on. I know, I know, a lot of us grew up staring at the paintings above the baptistry, but this was the real deal. The only downside was that it was raining sideways at the time, but the break from the spring heat was very welcome.

There is not much else that I can really say. Travis taught the class before I spoke; he did a fantastic job of introducing the book of 2 Timothy. I spoke on chapter 1 verses 1-7. I had all of my words written in front of me, which alliviated most of the stress that I felt. It was about ten pages double-spaced, and I mostly read it with my typical emotive flair. I strayed from my notes occasionally, but just to gauge the involvement of my audience of about 20 adults. They were very gracious and had prepared a lunch of cachorro quente (hot dogs) and soda for everyone. I can't wait to go back and improve my vocabulary and comfort level. I did it! but not without a lot of encouragement and careful translation help from Valerie. Thanks for all your prayers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I've been slacking lately. Sorry about that.

Actually, I haven't been slacking in "real life", just in terms of updating the blog. I spent most of last week (Tuesday-Saturday) down with a virus. The first couple days of it, I was quite literally down, flat on my back, watching movies my dear sweet Russell rented for me. It may seem like I've been sick a lot since we've been here, and compared to the last few years of my life, I have been, but it's pretty par for my life. My immune system is not the most cooperative in the world, so by moving somewhere new, with all kinds of new bugs, I'm like a kid starting daycare--I'm going to pick up everything. At least once. But I'm feeling quite a bit better now, though I've got some symptoms that are still kicking around.

Sunday was my big day to emerge from the apartment, and I jumped back into life with both feet. I'll do a separate post about it (or better yet, get Russ to do it), but here it is in 30 words or less: Russ preached his first Portuguese sermon in a little upper room overlooking the Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints' Bay) while I sat shivering.

Russ and I stopped at the mall on Monday morning and discovered that Christmas has arrived in Bahia. The Christmas decorations are out in full force. On display anyway. There's not very many for sale, and the ones that are for sale are either outrageously expensive or embarrassingly cheap. We generally opt for cheap. The most well-stocked store, Lojas Americanas (which literally means American Stores), is the closest we have to WalMart, though it doesn't really compare to WalMart. (For the Canadians, I would compare it to Woolco.) The Christmas section was absolutely insane; it felt like WalMart on the day after Christmas. People were buying decorations like they might not be there tomorrow, and unfortunately we caught the fever and ended up picking up a couple of things.

I spent Monday afternoon working on our team/church budget with Randy. It was, to say the least, a challenge. We had to create a budget for a church that currently has only ten adult members but hopes to, within the next year, have a youth ministry, a children's ministry and a church building! I definitely sent up a lot of prayers about that budget. We resisted presenting it to the team in the form of a budget Sunday and opted for last night's meeting instead. Hopefully we'll get the figures nailed down within the next week so we all know what we're working with. Especially since...

...the search for a building has begun! Actually, it's been going on for a couple of weeks. We've got several different realtors on the case and every major street in our neighborhoods has been scouted. We've got one property that looks good, but there's a lot of legal work to be done before we're ready to sign a contract, so we're cautiously optimistic. Fortunately, we have all seen God's hand provide for us repeatedly and know that even if He doesn't give us our first choice, He will give us just what we need. The process of getting to Brazil left us all with such confidence in the faithfulness of our God that we have no doubts that we will be in a building for our inaugural service on April 2.

Other than that, there's just a whole lot of running around going on right now. We're spending the next three days in training on our evangelistic Bible studies that Travis, Randy and Mary Virginia have written. We've got another wave of visitors coming, starting with Matt's parents, the Maberys, on Sunday. They'll be here for a week and will be followed by Georgia Freitas and Donna Millican in early December. Donna is a trustee for Continent of Great Cities and her husband, Don, is an elder at Park Plaza, the Parkers' sponsoring church. The Millicans graciously let us live with them for a couple of months last year when things were looking bleak, so we're looking forward to her visit. Finally, Russell's folks will be here in just over a month. His parents, brother and grandmother (Nana) will all be staying with us, so we're working hard to get our apartment ready for them. With all those visitors, it means that we, the Maberys and the Parkers are all making frequent trips to the store to buy paint, towels and whatever else we've been putting off buying. I can't wait though. Any family's visitor is a visitor for the whole team, especially parents. We were fortunate enough to get to know every team member's parents before leaving, so we look forward to seeing them again. Please keep all the travelers in your prayers.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I missed homecoming.

Last weekend was homecoming at Oklahoma Christian. I think I've managed to make it every year until now. I went when I was in college because I had to- we always had a club alumni breakfast where the new Beta girls, who had to go, would sit and pretend like they knew the old Beta girls, who weren't there to see anyone but each other. And that was fine, as the years passed and friends graduated, I did know some of the older girls.

After I graduated, I stayed in Oklahoma City for a couple of years but didn't see many of my college friends on a regular basis. No reason in particular, we just went to different churches and became part of different social circles. But I looked forward to homecoming as a change to see those friends, who were ususally coming for the same reason. Plus it was an excuse for Jenny to visit. And because of our work with the college ministry, I actually knew many of the younger girls, so I had lots of people to see.

We moved to Abliene for training but came back for homecoming. That time it was more important to see those friends, because they weren't just across town. At the time, I thought it would be my last one because we were originally going to arrive here in October 2004. But we moved the date to March and we got to go one last time.

And now here we are again. I've read on several friends' blogs that they were planning on going. To you, I say, "I'm jealous!" And then there's the rest of you, flung out around the world, for whom the weekend trip just isn't a possibility. To you, I say, "I'm sorry." But regardless of which category you fit in, if you're a college friend of mine and read this blog (and chances are I read yours too), then I guess homecoming would have been just a formality! We know what's going on in each others' lives! But somehow, it's not the same. If anyone figures out how to post a hug in the comments section, let me know.

There's an obvious spiritual application to be made here. I could talk about the longing we should feel for our real homecoming. I could remind all of you (and myself) that even if I never make it to another OC homecoming, I will be reunited with these friends and so many more one day. I'll hopefully get to introduce them to Brazilians who are there because we're here. And all that is true. But I'm still a little sad.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day of the Dead

Originally uploaded by russandval.
If I say "Day of the Dead," you may instantly think of the Mexican celebration with the little skeleton guys. I know I do.

But in Brazil it's different. It's just like Memorial Day. But bigger. Much bigger.

Jaci recommended a field trip to the cemetery to see the goings-on. We all jumped at the chance. I was especially excited when I found out we were going to a cemetery that I have noticed several times and have been longing to visit. (Earlier today, I said I was dying to check it out--poor choice of words!)

This morning, Russ and I met Jaci, the Maberys, the Sasses and Keith to head down to the cemetery. After a good twenty minute wait for the bus, we hopped on. Because it's a holiday, traffic was pretty light. And then we got near the cemetery. It's in a pretty hilly part of town--the roads go up and up. The traffic got heavier and heavier the closer we got. Finally it was stop and go. And on one of the big hills the bus stopped and didn't go. We stalled out. The driver waited a second, restarted, lurched forward and stalled. A little roll, a slam of the brakes--no problem. He tried several times to get going again but the hill was just too big. We all got off the bus and walked the rest of the way (it was only a fews stops away).

Outside the cemetery were vendors of all descriptions. You could buy fresh flowers, artificial flowers, candles, water, hot dogs- anything you might possibly need for your day at the cemetery. The next wave of people came as we entered the gates: the evangelicals. Since this is a Catholic holiday, most conservative evangelicals do not celebrate it. Instead, they apparently use this opportunity to hand out tracts! We received several tracts, all quite interesting, and some actually had some good things to say. But I don't know when they're mourning is the best time to tell people they're wrong. After the evangelicals was a row of nuns and finally we entered the main part of the cemetery.

I had never been to a cemetery outside of anglo-North America. I had never walked among large above-ground tombs and crypts. At the entrance are the most expensive monuments. Some had obviously cost millions to construct. There were little chapels, amazing sculptures and beautiful flowers. There were large trees providing shade. These had been rich and powerful families.

Turning a corner, we got to the next level down. Still large above-ground crypts, but they were a little more subdued. Around the outer edges were walls of vaults.

Winding a little more and heading down some stairs, we ended up in aisle after aisle of vaults. They were not as nice as the ones upstairs but were much more recent (within the past five years).

There was another section where there were in-ground graves but I didn't make it there. The cemetery was so immense. Many people were walking around, looking for their loved one's grave. Jaci told us her father is buried there but doesn't know where he is. She says she doesn't see a point in going once a year to wash the marker or put out flowers and then ignoring him the rest of the year. (I think there's more to the relationship than we know about).

In all, it was quite an interesting morning. I would like to go back to the cemetery when there are less people there. I enjoy walking and reading the markers, taking in the scuptures and just experiencing the peace. I don't find cemeteries scary or eerie (though I made a few zombie jokes today) because death isn't something for God's children to fear! I'm so thankful that God is life! He is the giver of life, sustainer of life and He has given us the road to eternal life with Him. The graves we saw today were full of people who had lost to death. We don't have to! Praise God!