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Archive for November, 2010

Thanksgiving in Brazil

“Can I bring anything?” the email read.  A long  mental  list began growing in my mind.  Dear friends were coming to Manaus during Thanksgiving week and wanted to share it with us.  This was very special to us since we had celebrated many a holiday together while on the field.  Because of an emergency health situation they had to evacuate their Brazilian  home and flourishing ministry in a short 2 weeks.  After over a year of being gone they were coming back to crate their belongings.  We were overjoyed to be spending Thanksgiving with them once again.

We are asked many times if we keep American holidays when we are in Brazil.  You bet we do.  We love our connections with the rich heritage of faith we have as Americans. 

So what did my friend bring?  Check it out.  What would you ask for if you lived in foreign country where stuffing and cranberry sauce are non existent?

.

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I was embarrased.  I had been nearly 4 weeks back in our Manaus home and I had not seen a dear neighbor yet.  I had given her a modern translation of the Bible on our last day in Brazil back in 2008.  Paying for her, these past 16 months, had been a special burden since I knew she would be reading it alone in her Catholic home.  Since our return to Manaus I had gone  to her house 3 different times to try to catch someone at home.  Although it appeared that someone was there, my knocking produced no answer.  I began to wonder if the devil was trying to discourage me.  I can be intimidated easily at times.  

I had spoken to her mom, several times as she passed me on the street, and learned that Doris* was struggling with some of the issues I knew about when we left for the U.S.    This worked to conjure up huge scenarios in my mind about what I might encounter on a visit.  Just the thing the devil likes to do.  So I prayed for an open door.

Sunday afternoon is usually when I enjoy an afternoon nap but on this Sunday I was prompted to bake some chocolate chip cookies by the longing look in my 15 year old son’s eyes.  If he would chop up the chocolate bar I would mix up a batch, I promised him. With the promise just out of my mouth I realized that I was out of butter.  The local bread store would be opening in a few minutes, after an afternoon siesta, so I started on my way.  En route I met some other neighbors whom I also had not seen yet.  They had had a huge birthday party the night before so I asked about it.  It was the special first year birthday party for their granddaughter.  

On my way again I remembered that this family had really enjoyed the chocolate chip cookies I had made one Christmas many years ago.  Why don’t I double the batch, I thought, and take them some?   Even though the ingredients would be double or triple the price at this bread store I figured it was going to be a worthy investment.  I smiled to myself knowing Tom would applaud my efforts and not be chagrinned at the expense. 

Once in my kitchen I set to work.  Doris came to mind again.  Oh, of course I could take a plate of cookies and try once more to see her.

With cookies cooling I gathered a few other little gifts which I had loaded up with at the Dollar Store before I left the States.  I found some cute little Minnie Mouse socks that I could bestow on the birthday girl and some other goodies to share.  When delivering the cookies to the “party” house I met yet another neighbor I wished to renew contact with!  Isn’t God good?!  As I was leaving I asked what the theme was for the birthday party.  I laughed when she told me it was “Minnie Mouse”. 

Reinforced with another plate of cookies I went to Doris’ home.  There she was, outside, visiting with friends, having just returned from being out.  It was an easy, casual way to reconnect and reopen our friendship. 

Armed with prayer, a plate of cookies, and Dollar Store gifts can be mighty tools to build bridges and share His love.

*not her real name

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Intriguing Names

 

The other night we passed a small Catholic church called, “The Church of the Poor Devil”. It sounded like a church with a good story behind it.  I was told that there once had been a very poor man with leprosy. He made a promise to God that if he was healed he would build a church. The man was miraculously healed and set to work building his church to show God his gratitude.   He was known as ” the poor devil”,  so the name stuck.

The next morning at a church breakfast I was slicing a piece of cake that I had never seen before.  When someone told me the name of it I hesitated  for only a moment. It was called “Rotten Cake”. Well, it did not look rotten or even taste remotely rotten, but was moist and sweet.  Maybe a way to deter children?  Sounds like another story I’d like to hear sometime…or maybe not.

In the grocery store I picked up my favorite yogurt.  Its name?  Batmilk. 

In the soda pop aisle you can pick up your pound of flesh because they sell it  in 2 liter bottles.  It is one of our favorite sodas as well.

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Who is Keeping Watch?

I awoke just over a week ago on my first morning back in Brazil to the squawking of parrots in our jambo tree. They were welcoming me back to Brazil. I had missed them. 

Then friends brought us a regional, Brazilian breakfast.  We chewed on salty tapioca pancakes, tart pineapple slices, wedges of sweet papaya, fresh crusty rolls, and washed it down with fragrant coffee com leite.  A feast bestowed on us by friends we have missed even more than the food and parrots.

When we began to unpack our luggage I heard noises in our ceiling.  I was mildly amused at first.  It could only be  a cat on its way to the next roof.  But it was soon clear that this was not a passing cat.  A small feline family had taken up residence, uninvited in the space between our ceiling and roof.  We finally espied them, the skittish mother cat and her two shy kittens.  Their size, speed and nimbleness made catching them unlikely.

How did these annoying troublesome cats get in our rafters? How long will they stay? Our cat, Eowyn, disappeared  during our time in the United States.  I know that if she had been here we would not have this problem.  She would have been watching, doing her job, to make sure we did not have any annoying pests to deal with.  Now we have constant rumblings in our ceiling, incessant barking from the dog next door and untold messes being left behind.  

So if that can happen to our house can’t it happen in the spiritual domain as well?  Aren’t we to be keeping watch over the lives of those around us to make sure little unwanted pests don’t take up residence?  I think John Wesley had something like this on his mind when he started his bands. They were small groups, of 3 or 4 people watching over the lives of one another, asking about sins committed, areas of temptation and victories won.  It is all about getting involved on a deep level to make sure that each person is growing unhindered and unentangled by sin.  Sounds like a good idea to me.  So do you have someone keeping watch over your life?

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