First Advent

I remember the excitement of coming to church, four Sundays before Christmas, and seeing a wreath at the front near the pulpit, with four candles, one of them lit.

As near as I can understand, this is a symbol of a time of waiting. In the Old Testament, the Jews waited for the Messiah. Now we wait for His second coming.

Waiting is good. Waiting is kind of like the “smell” of good food in the kitchen, or the “sound” of a friend driving up to the house. It is an anticipation of some very important about to happen. Waiting is like building the foundations under a house. If we learn to wait well, we will live richer lives.

Here are four Christmas cards the girls and I painted this year. I will post them today, on the First Advent Sunday.

Why the "bad guys" make very good "good guys".

We are praying that the bandits and “bad guys” in our neighborhood will become the next generation of missionaries, pastors and leaders. They have a lot of things going for them.

1. They crave adventure.
2. They long for a few good friends.
3. They do not put a high value on their lives.
4. They have the chance to be “forgiven much”, and so it will be easier for them to “love much”.
5. They are reaping the wages of their sinful lives even here on this earth, and things will get worse for them if they stay on their current track.

Nilton Cordeiro, who has personally planted more churches than anyone else I know, told me that the darker the region, the easier churches are to plant. “People get so tired of prostitution, crime, fear, greed and wickedness”.

Jesus taught how the prostitute loved God more than one of the “pastors” of His day. “He who is forgiven much loves much, but he who is forgiven little loves little”. It is our perception of how much we have been forgiven that is really important. This perception has a direct relation to how much we are able to minister to others out of true compassion. Significant time alone with Jesus gives us all the capacity to “love greatly”.

Moses the Black is one of the early church fathers. He lived from 330 A.D. to 405 A.D. His writings are still studied today. Here is a quote from Wikipedia.

“Moses was a slave of a government official in Egypt who dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a gang of bandits who roamed the Nile Valley spreading terror and violence. He was a large, imposing figure.”

“On one occasion, a barking dog prevented Moses from carrying out a robbery, so he swore vengeance on the owner. Weapons in his mouth, Moses swam the river toward the owner’s hut. The owner, again alerted, hid, and the frustrated Moses took some of his sheep to slaughter. Attempting to hide from local authorities, he took shelter with some monks in a colony in the desert of Scetes, near Alexandria. The dedication of their lives, as well as their peace and contentment, influenced Moses deeply. He soon gave up his old way of life, became a Christian, was baptized and joined the monastic community at Scetes.”

“Moses had a rather difficult time adjusting to regular monastic discipline. His flair for adventure remained with him. Attacked by a group of robbers in his desert cell, Moses fought back, overpowered the intruders, and dragged them to the chapel where the other monks were at prayer. He told the brothers that he didn’t think it Christian to hurt the robbers and asked what he should do with them. The overwhelmed robbers repented, were converted, and themselves joined the community.”

“Moses was zealous in all he did, but became discouraged when he concluded he was not perfect enough. Early one morning, Saint Isidore, abbot of the monastery, took Moses to the roof and together they watched the first rays of dawn come over the horizon. Isidore told Moses, “Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative.”

“When a brother committed a fault and Moses was invited to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Moses refused to attend. When he was again called to the meeting, Moses took a leaking jug filled with water and carried it on his shoulder. When he arrived at the meeting place, the others asked why he was carrying the jug. He replied, “My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” On hearing this, the assembled brothers forgave the erring monk.” End of quote.

Too Many Funerals, Not Enough Weddings

Our church made a plan a 40 day plan last Sunday (November 21). We put out a sign up sheet for whoever wanted to commit to walk through our neighborhood each day and pray. We are asking God to come and get more involved with us.
On Wednesday Anni told me one of the guys had “prayer walked” three times in one day. Earlier that day his brother-in-law died of gunshot wounds. 
Charlie was signed up to come to our Encontro Retreat while he was still in jail. He had participated in our Cristoval Retreat during the Carnival holiday. He was now more serious about correcting his ways. “I am done with this kind of life. From now on I will learn to live for Jesus.” A day after he got out of jail a gunman in dressed in black clothes, wearing a black helmet, riding a black motorbike rode up and starting shooting at him. He was hit while he was jumping over a wall and ended up in intensive care. This was about two blocks from our house. In the hospital Charlie prayed with a pastor. With tears in his eyes he repented of his sins and gave his heart to the Lord.
Some weeks ago everyone in our church was challenged to pray for someone who needed Jesus. A young girl started praying for Charlie. This was before he got shot. While he was in the hospital she continued to pray for him. When she heard he gave his heart to the Lord before he died she was kind of awed at how God had directly answered her prayers.
Since Charlie could not come to the Encontro he sent his brother, who was also his best friend. In his words, “This has been the best week-end of my life”. His wife’s first husband was also gunned down in a similar type killing. These are young people, in their late teens and early twentys. Revenge and fear of dying are big issues here.
I realized on the way to the graveyard that we have been to quite a few funerals with our neighbors. None of the funerals have been for old people. And we have not been to one wedding. I have never even heard of a wedding in more than two years since we moved here. The concept of why we are praying for our neighborhood for 40 days is easy to grasp: There are too many funerals, not enough weddings.
About thirty people from our church signed up for the challenge to pray / walk for forty days. The last day will be December 31 when we will start three nights of special meetings in our new church building. We are expecting God to show up. Many of our neighbors will meet Him at these meetings.

Why we do mission work.

  1. This is our calling and gift.
  2. For the challenge of watching God do the impossible.
  3. For the pleasure of doing what we were created to do.
  4. For the impact it makes on the world.
  5. For the good reputation God gets because of our work.
  6. We get to solve interesting problems.
  7. We get to be part of a group and experience community.
  8. We are appreciated.
  9. We have a few years on earth, and then eternity.
  10. It is a small favor back to God, for His great favors and gifts to us.
I trust that you who work with us through prayers, giving and in other ways feel these same motivations and blessings! These should be the exact same reasons you have. It is what makes everything worthwhile.

Trans-Amazon Highway

Ivanildo took me to the bus depot around 4:30 a.m. The bus driver was wide-eyed. “Two buses just pulled in full of bullet holes. They were robbed an hour up the road we will be traveling on.” “How many bullet holes?” Thinking. Thinking. “Six.” After a few more questions I gave my notebook computer to Ivanildo to take back home. Happily, we had no incidents. The 300 mile ride took over twelve hours of steady bumping along through very picturesque country.


It felt a lot like a family gathering in Altamira this week. It was extra sweet as several of the families are planning to move on within the next year. The Bergquist family was in town from where they now live, a nine hour drive into the bush when the roads are good. The Kubacki family and Richie came up from Porto de Moz, an all night and all morning journey by lineboat, speedboat and van. Steve and Elba are back from furlough. The Phflederer family is back from furlough. Keith and Marsha had time to hang out and talk. Patty is around, and Chelsea and her sister. Jim and Sharon Stevenson are excellent guest house hosts.

If you would like to become part of this family setting, the Altamira Base has an opening for Guest House hosts starting in February 2011, to allow for a few weeks of overlap so the Stevensons can teach their replacements how things work. This is an excellent ministry opportunity for the right couple.

As I downloaded all my photos of this great family get together I realized I have no people pictures. Oops! Here is a word picture…”All the kids are growing up fast! And all the missionaries are fully engaged in the journey.” The photos I have?…some ambience pictures of my time at Bud and Suzanne’s place.


Leader’s Meetings Altamira

I got home last night after a fourteen and a half hour bus ride after spending three full days in Altamira. The time revolved around our Mission Leadership meetings. It was a time of encouragement, fellowship and wondering together what God is doing and how we can best participate with Him.

Tuesday morning I was able to sit in on a regularly scheduled Altamira pastors meeting. The pastors and leaders wrestle with the issues of the day together, primarily how to best grow healthy churches, train leaders and expand the Kingdom of God more through the city and region of Altamira. (Note: Pastors Clenildo, Kenim and others were at this meeting too. Naldo showed up for a few minutes, and so did Angelita.)

What a rich life.

Encontro Week-end Photos

The best part about the Encontro Week-end retreats are the testimonies. As pictures can tell stories too, here are a few to give you a taste of what went on. The week end includes teaching, reflection, confession, encouragement, drama and good food. It ends on Sunday. Then everyone comes down from the mountain top and goes back to their valleys where they really live, to put these new teachings to the test. Many of the parents came to church that Sunday night. It was a rowdy service! And emotional!