I remember Luke Huber talking about the Amazon, before we ever became missionaries…”then we would to this beach area, where there were many cashew fruit trees. I could eat 5 of these super-juicy fruits”. And there is nothing better than when you are walking along a deserted stretch of beach, and you are hot, and tired, and hungry, and then you come across a cashew tree, full of sun-ripened fruit. They have such a strong, citrusy, flavour, and they kind of make your mouth dry, like the choke cherries up in Northern Canada. Sun ripened, open air, fresh…these are the secrets to really enjoying the actual cashew fruit.
Luke told us cashew fruits contain 5 times as much vitamin C as an orange. We found out for ourselves they will stain your shirt brown if the juice drips on you. And the seed contains some toxic elements that will burn your leg if you put them in your pocket. The smoke is also toxic, as I found out when I tried roasting some in a frying pan inside the house, and the house filled with smoke, and our eyes were burning. The seeds will spit burning oil that leave a blister wherever they land on your skin, and they will be flaming, burning bits of oil if you roast them over a fire. We learned to stir them around with a long stick. For flavour, home-roasted cashew nuts taste the best.
If you come for a visit at this time of year, you can see for yourself what I am talking about.
We feasted on fried fish and açai in Porto Novo.
We checked at about three places that looked like eating establishments, but no one seemed to be open for lunch. Finally we stopped at Tia Lú’s.
There was a lady, later we found out she was the owner, getting her toe nails painted by another lady. They were sitting on a chair and a stool, blocking the entry way. “You want lunch now?” It was 11:30. We offered to wait, but she got up with one foot painted and one not. Three of us wanted fried fish. Marques doesn’t like fish. “No problem. (Wink). I’ll fix you up with a good lunch”. She ended up cooking us a feast. We had a big plate full of beef, more than we could eat. Plus another plate of cooked chicken. She fried us three bass, one after the other. Plus huge bowls of rice and beans. Then she offered us açai. And it was good. Thick and cold. She gave us a couple of litres in an aluminum pitcher, with four bowls, lots of farinha, and a plastic tub full of sugar on the side. We were stuffed. And for a very low price. Others came in while we were eating, and they ate too, offering us their food, two came and sat at our table, and they finished off what we could not eat. It was a fun experience, one I am hoping to do again soon.
Four of us, Ivanildo, Marques, Elismar and I, left Marabá early in the morning, praying about where God wants to plant another church. This village where we ate lunch is called Porto Novo.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Luke 9:37
“Aren’t you going to wait until they get bigger?” My friend was watching me pick Bella’s little tomatoes. He did not understand that these tomatoes were ripe now. He thought that if we left them longer, they would get bigger. I realized as I was picking them how God varies the signals for ripe fruit. Tomatoes turn bright red. They would be hard to pick for someone who is color blind. Some of our mangos are still totally green on the outside, even though they are ripe. The ripe mangos fall from the trees, and they are a little softer. Pineapples smell ripe. You need to knock on watermelons. The harvest is plentiful. The Holy Spirit will show us who is ripe for the gospel is we ask Him.
Bella’s Little Tomatoe Patch
The mangoes are ripening.
Sixteen years ago two teen-agers from our church were at the gate of our home in Altamira. Ross and I were in my office on a Saturday morning, working on a newsletter. Ross ended up flying to Água Preta with Vagner and Jefferson with his floatplane.
Simone and Jefferson are ordained as pastors for one year.
“Can you drive us out into the bush to get my mom? She fell and broke her hip.”
“Where is it that you want to go?”
“It is an hour or two down the Amazon Highway, then you turn off onto a small dirt road for another hour. We’ll get a boat and cross the Xingu River, hike 2 kms into the bush, and bring her out.”
“Can we get there with an airplane with floats?”
No one at the shore there had seen a floatplane before. Ross heard them speculating whether the president of Brazil was sending someone to their village.
The young guys hiked into the village, and brought out Lourdes in a stretcher. When she saw Ross and the airplane she said (in Portuguese), “I saw you in a dream last night. You came to get me in a really fast speedboat. And this voice behind me said, ‘Only by the God of the Bible will you get healed.’” Lourdes got better for awhile, and she became quite an evangelist. Unfortunately her hip still is a problem and she is now waiting for another hip replacement surgery.
Over time both of these young men fell away from the Lord. Their first love grew cool. But Jefferson came back. Last month we ordained him and his wife as the senior pastors of one of the city churches in Altamira.
Marsha Wilson from Pacajá was here to do voice testing for people who would like to train for the worship team.
Sunday Marsha spoke on worship, and then we worshipped for awhile afterwards. I could see people “entering in”.
We had a baby dedication. Baby Higor is 3 weeks old. His mom is Elizanna, the wife of António Carlos, who is the brother of John Lennon.
I took some pictures of baby Alice, the daughter of Marques and Adrianna, who were our worship leaders.
And I include one picture of baby Emily, Eliete and Cesar’s child, because she was in the hospital very sick this week, but she is better now.
Adrianna and Alice
Adrianna and Alice
Baby Dedication – Elizanna and Higor
Baby Dedication – Elizanna and Higor
Baby Dedication – Elizanna and Higor
Here is a picture of our main church meeting, with Marsha Wilson preaching.
Marsha teaches about how we worship in a church service.
Baby Emily – Eliete and Cesar’s baby, Luana and Yara’s sister.
I remember Luke Huber, who founded PAZ Mission, telling me, “If I plant 100,000 churches for the Lord but lose my own children, I will consider myself a failure”. I remember Luke doing things with his young boys, like the time he stuffed a large bass and put it up on their shelf. A family project. Luke and Christine were not failures. Even though Luke has gone to be with Jesus these last 18 years or so, all four of their children are serving the Lord, three of them here in Brazil as full-time missionaries!
One way that I spend time with our girls is painting. I can never remember painting until we had some home-school money, the girls were ages 2, 4, 6, and 8, and we were looking for a project. We went to town, bought some oil paints and canvases, and had art class. We have come a long way since then, and the girls have become better painter than me. But we all have fun at it. Together.
Here are some water colours we did, for about an hour a Saturday for 4 weeks. Three of the picture were inspired by pictures on the internet. The cabin is where Ivanildo and Monica live, here on the church property in Marabá.
Bella’s “House with Cats” watercolor painting.
Canna lilies grow in the ditches in our neighbourhood.
These canna lilies grow in the ditches alongside the road in our neighbourhood.
Anxiety (according to Seth Godin) = experiencing failure in advance
Faith (Hebrews 11:1) = belief in the best possible outcome
Mathew 6:27-29 …”And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these”.…
I do not know what these youth would have been doing last night had we not moved to Marabá.
I know that many of their friends and older siblings have gotten into a lot of trouble.
This is how God is transforming things to make them better,…from people to neighbourhoods to cities.
I am so glad to be part of this.
I am so glad to work with Ivanildo and Monica, Eliel and Aline, who planned and made last night fun.
I am so glad for everyone who has helped bring this Marabá Project to where it is today.
Church planters, pastors, and missionaries do so much good in the world. Unfortunately, the attrition and burn-out rate are high, and this can undo the good work, and even be damaging. Steve Summerall told us, “Like a boat, we all leave a wake behind us. Some people understand what the waves they make, and some people have no idea.”
To increase the good, and to lessen the harm, Vineyard leaders from the United States have been encouraging a few Vineyard leaders from around Brazil to gather once or twice a year for two or three days, for a spiritual formation retreat. During these retreats we have the opportunity to become quiet, to reflect on our relationship with Jesus. Other benefits include the deepening sense of family and community among us leaders, even though cultures vary greatly from region to region.
One of the exercises we did this week was to reflect on Luke 15:11-32. We were asked to identify with the younger son, who rebelled and then came back home. In the afternoon we went to our solitary places and reflected on how we are like the older son, who was not happy to see his repentant younger brother. Another time we reflected on God’s father-heart. What is it like for God when we, His children, act like this? What does God really think about us? This is a rich, powerful way to read the bible.
This time our retreat was located in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. It is cold here. While we waited for a few others to arrive on our first day, we hiked to nearby waterfalls. The last day we ended with a meal that included ribs that were barbecued for 8 hours, along with entertainment from the gauchos, the local cowboy culture.
I cannot express how grateful I am to participate in these retreats. Now how can I bring this sense of community and personal relationship with God back to Marabá? How can I guard against our church simply becoming a bunch of meetings and things we do and don’t do? How can we help our neighbours understand how to relate in a healthy way to the Father, and to fully life life here with Him?
The InterVinha 2013 was held at the Church Camp in Altamira. This is the place we used to call “The Ranch”. For all who have helped support us and the movement in Altamira over the last 18 years, thank you. Here is a small glimpse of how the team there is taking things forward!