We have been having so much fun with the clay oven, baking bread, squash, fajitas, and pizza. Here our family roasted a chicken, the day after Christmas, just for us! Interesting enough, in all these meals we hardly have any leftovers. The clay oven makes delicious food. You are invited to come for a visit so we can fire it up for you to try.
Christmas is the best holiday for getting people to present skits, and dances. As these young people prepare to do something special, they invite their families who normally do not come to church. Ivanildo bar-be-qued some meat, and people brought other food, and we had a “Church Family Christmas Celebration”. There were about 175 people present, and it felt like a bustling, healthy community. It felt like the first drops of rain, when we know a rain storm is coming. It felt refreshing.
Phil and some others worked real hard to get our overhead projector working. This project was a long time coming. The 100 foot long HDMI cable worked! Some other things worked. We pushed our huge sound cable through the tube under the floor so we can put our sound board at the back of the church. Things are starting to come into focus. It is very cool.
On Christmas Eve everyone who lives on the “chacara”, plus a few more, gathered for a staff Christmas party. Everyone brought a $5 gift, and we played the White Elephant game, where you can choose someone else’s gift, or pick a wrapped one on the table.
We ate bar-be-qued chicken, oven baked buns and other treats.
Fancy coffee cups were the most-traded gifts.
Every year Ivanildo organizes a special soccer game, “marrieds against singles”. Sometimes this is known as “old guys against young guys”. The “marrieds” have always lost in the past. This year some of the youth who are now living with their girlfriends joins the “marrieds / old guys”. Since marriage itself is kind of rare in our neighbourhood, living with a girl counts as marriage. It’s kind of complicated, a part of the culture of our neighbourhood we are hoping to change as we teach and model the benefits of long-term commitments and true love. Still, the game was a lot of fun, and this year, thanks largely to two of the youth who joined the “old married guys”, the “marrieds” won.
The youth all want a rematch but Ivanildo says, “Only next year. You have lost for the year now.” (Huge smile).
I was hoping to play but some other people came over and I could not get down to the field in time. The girls took these photos of the game and the bystanders.
Our clay oven is working as well as I hoped it would. Friday night we Ivanildo and Monica, Eliete and Cesar, and all their kids and Monica’s mom over for the evening. Annika and helpers made 7 deluxe pizzas. I thought (I was hoping) we would have about 3 or 4 pizzas left over, but unfortunately there were only a few small pieces, which vanished rapidly the next morning. After the pizza we ate Deanna’s almond rocha, and played dominoes. Eliete was so grateful. “Thank you Deanna, for this evening. Seeing my whole family laughing and happy together was so good for me. Thank you.”
Eliete has the gift of hospitality. Her house is always a hub for down-and-outers who need a meal or a place to hang out for awhile. She has been a single mom for the most part. Cesar is the father of her last child. They have been together for about three years. About a year ago Cesar was drinking with his brother. His brother got mad, and broke Cesar’s leg in a fight. He needed a bunch of bolts and metal and a lot of time for the leg to heal. While this was happening he got tuberculosis and leprosy. He was really sick for a long time, but is slowly recovering. He also really enjoyed the evening, “Hey, if you are ever doing this again and you invite me, I’ll come!” Both Eliete and Cesar came to the Encontro Retreats we had last month. May God continue to draw them in, and to shower His love on them.
Deanna is really good at saving up numerous small gifts to give out at Christmas. It is fun celebrating with people to whom the whole idea is new. You can see the ideas slowly giving people hope that there are better ways to live, and these ways are accesible to them.
We keep praying that God will forgive sins, give more chances, overlook stuff. He did this for all of us, and He continues to do this for all of us. It is fun and satisfying when we can get past ourselves to ask God to do this for others who He places around us. Sometimes we can watch their lives change for the better. God is working in others, and using us as part of the process. How great is God’s plan?
We have so many great family memories of special meals with friends where we used our clay oven that I decided to build another one here in Marabá. Olivia was a great help in laying bricks, and the other girls helped too, as they were able. Anni will help by preparing the pizzas, in just a few more days. (Ivanildo and Phil did a lot too).
There is no heat resistant cement here in Marabá, so I asked my friend Google how to make a homemade mix. Here is the recipe I used.
3 parts clay
3 parts cement
3 parts sand
1 part sugar
The clay makes the cement really sticky and hard to work with. The sugar makes a chemical reaction with the cement, causing it to be hot to touch. Now we have to wait from 4 – 20 days for the cement to cure.
Then we’ll build a fire inside the oven to heat it up, push the fire to the back, and slide our pizzas, or bread, or roasts, or whatever in to bake.
Things always work out. It turns out the head gasket was gone in our truck. This means the water could not flow through its channels to cool the engine. Monday morning I was able to slowly make my way across the city of Belem to the mechanic I knew. I kept stopping to let the engine cool down, and I took these opportunities to ask God for a newer vehicle. The mechanic had moved to another city, but I asked around and was directed to another small place. This guy identified the problem, and ordered a new head gasket from Sao Paulo. But it will take over a week to repair. So, as a family, we took the 10 hour bus ride home. In Marabá we were able to rent a car for a week, splitting the cost with the Rae family, so we can prepare for the Christmas parties here at the church. It is all working out.
These photos are of the bus depot in Belem. They have an under-the-road tunnel, so us travellers can get safely to the bus we are on.
I am including a photo of a very strong diesel vehicle. We are still quite a bit short of funds to buy it. It is 4 or 5 years old, but in very good condition.
One of the things we try to be as a church is “family”. And families celebrate Christmas together. Deanna and the whole team did a really good job a making this a special celebration for some of our neighbourhood children. For many, this is the start of a whole new way of celebrating Jesus’ birthday.
Following our two week-end retreats we had a morning of teaching last Sunday, and a Potluck Lunch. I gave my camera to one of the boys. If you look closely at these photos you will see a bunch of people trying to figure out how to walk with Jesus on this earth.