Monday, March 26, 2007

Report Upon Returning

Deus te Abencoe!

Hello all friends, family, and supporters,

Due to travels and unreliable internet we were unable to make any day to day updates while on the March trip. Today is Monday the 26th of March and we have all arrived back safely into the U.S.A. We have all shared an experience this week which has reached each of us in a unique way, from coloring and teaching bible stories to children, to painting, to digging a trench through a road, along with a number of church services and unforgettable fellowship with our Brazilian brothers and sisters, who must be the most hospitable and generous people in the world.

Many of our members, I know, kept personal records, journalings, and reflections upon the work accomplished and the experiences had here, so their individual thoughts will be posted here in the coming days, combined with perhaps more details of the planning for the second trip with the other half of our members in June.

I'll provide as much of a summary of the day to day activities as possible. As the men spent most of the rest of the week out in the community on work projects, we have less knowledge of the Bible school times with the children at the Villa Pantanal Church. I apologize in advance for the somewhat slanted view on the week's activities.

Of all the children who attend the Pantanal Church project, five where chosen who had the worst housing conditions. These we have identified as our priority projects. Throughout the week we succeeded in accomplishing much of the work, and all of the heavy work, on two of them. One home was rotting, leaking, and collapsing in the "room" where the children slept. Here our principal work was in clearing out brick and other debris from next to the house, and then helping to dig and pour concrete footers there, so that a room could be added to the side of this shack, giving the family a safe and dry place to sleep. At the second home we worked to build a family a bathroom. As you can see below, the sewage system here consists of runoff and ditches along side the road. Most times they are not so clean cut as this, but run along the road itself. All of this garbage and sewage is dumped into a nearby river and swamp area. Our biggest task was to dig a trench (through a road, mind you) into which pipes could be laid for waste removal. In addition to this we helped with the brick and cement building of the actual bathroom structure. To most Americans, a toilet room is such a basic thing that we do not even think about it. We expect a modern bathroom with the same normalcy and dependency that we expect the sun to rise each morning. Yet to these people, this family, something so mundane even crude, as a bathroom, and on top of that a flushing, pipe-draining bathroom, means a great deal.

These community work projects occupied the men for most of the remainder of the week, although we had time Friday to participate in the vacation bible school with the children. The women, in addition to spearheading the VBS for the children, worked hard to paint the church. Roger Yarbrough devoted much time (and sweat!) to one of our most important projects in Pantanal: the training of locals in various craft and weaving type trades. Here he is with Morgan, cutting frames for weaving.By such means some people have actually succeeded in escaping the cyclical prison of poverty which traps those living in Villa Pantanal. Even since last year, through efforts such as Roger's, we have seen people break out in this way. Pastor Audir (pronounced "Aw-jeer") described it as a "good frustration," that as people come into the church, learned trades, and perhaps more importantly acquire Christ's infusion of hope, they break free from the bondage of poverty and leave the favela. This means that Pastor Audir, or whoever is working there, has to deal with a feeling of always starting over. Yet it is Audir's vision, and ours, to someday see what is now hardly more than a landfill with shacks dotting it, a place of spirits downtrodden as much as the broken bottles across the roads, to see this a green pasture land, empty of people, having been liberated as the Hebrews from Egypt.

I would be amiss if I failed to mention J.D. Revels, our guitarist for the trip. We were all very fortunate to have his talents serving us in leading all the worship times and the music for the children's VBS. We thank J.D. for his leadership and hard work in this area; he is a great guy to work with.

We attended two more church services during the week, both of which were grand times for us all. At the service Tuesday night we performed our skit, "We Are Pulled," which attempts to show first that we are drawn by temptations and vices in our spirits, but then, how we can be rescued by Christ and healed by the Spirit.

We met Bishop Jean (pronounced "John") Carlos and Audir for supper two nights, Thursday and Friday, for excellent native Brazilian meals, and equally if not more pleasing native Brazilian hospitality. For those of you who do not know, Bishop Jean Carlos and his wife (with the Methodist church) are our chief contacts in Brazil and coordinators of our work while we are there. Although they are Methodist affiliated, our mission is multi-denominational, including brothers and sisters from all backgrounds. Both the Bishop and Audir are wonderful people with incredible individual stories, and are all the more worthy as a couple working together for the Kingdom of God.

That is a very much summarized look at our work of the week. Saturday was a mostly a recuperating day. We went to the coast, visited more dear brothers and sisters at a church there, and then accompanied them across the bay, where we ate supper by the historic town of San Francisco, swam on a beach near the church, and then shared bread and a song or two with them again that evening.

Sunday we awoke early, and after a brief excursion to see the downtown culture of Curitiba marketplace, we returned to our residence of Lar Rogate to have a final service together with Audir on the front lawn. She gave her own testimony, and Reverend Singleton shared words on the devotionals of the week, both of a very appropriate and moving nature.

Our hearty thanks again to all who supported us by prayer or finance. As mentioned above we will continue to post more on here in the upcoming days, and be in mind that we have yet the second half of our team to travel in mid June.

Grace e Paz,

Monday, March 19, 2007

First Update

Hello everyone,

Thank you for the comments that we have received already. I will quickly fill you all (or y'all) in on what we have done so far, and then give you some ways that you can be in prayer for us.

Today is only Monday, and yet our time here has so far been very exciting, as well as full of activity: I think it was Sunday night, only one day since we had been here and we were remarking with surprise how it seemed that we'd been here several days, judged by the number of experiences we had seen.

Friday we spent traveling, flying from Charlotte to Miami, Miami to Sao Paulo, and then taking a bus Saturday morning to Curtiba. Our travels went mostly well - all except for Sara, who was ill for most of it. Three of us have had the bug so far; pray no more catch it, or anything else.

Saturday, as mentioned, we spent the morning taking the bus to Curitiba. Audir, Bishop Jean Carlos's wife and missionary in the Villa Pantanel favela, met us at the airport with her warmest greeting, and accompanied us back to Curitiba. After arriving at "Lar Rogate" (a Christian retreat center, our accomodations here), we met with Bishop Jean Carlos, Audir, who with Rev. Singleton gave us some introductory words and an overview of what we would be doing. Saturday night we attended church with them, where we introduced ourselves to the congregation and invited any to join us. The message preached (translated to us) was from 1 Cor. 12, on unity and fellowship throughout the entire body of Christ, a fitting theme for our first day here and for a service where the Brazilians had American visitors.

Sunday morning we traveled to Morretes, a port town near the ocean. Two of our members became sick that day and so recuperated in bed while the rest of us met the local lay pastor, a remarkable man who has planted numerous vibrant churches in his work in this area. Perhaps what stood out the most was the humility of this modern day Apostle Paul about whom we had heard so much. He brought us around to his churches a churches and projects. We went straight to church with him then that evening at his home church. Bishop Jean Carlos was giving the message in his church that night. He spoke on the need for God to be our first love, our first passion, and reading from Corinth. 13, said how God desires us to have Excellence, and that is had by having passion (love) toward him, and compassion toward people. A stirring word. Afterward we supped with he and the local pastor at a nearby resturante.

Monday morning we got our hands dirty working at an orphanage in Morretes, attempting to finish putting the roof on it. This was another project of the local Morretes pastor. We went to lunch with him afterward, and then said good-bye to head back to Curitiba. When we arrived there, we visited Villa Pantanal in the favela outside Curitiba, to see where we would be working for the remainder of the week. We also saw several of the slum's resident's "houses" that we were going to try and improve. Tomorrow we plan to start working on them. We will be putting a bathroom in one and building a room on another home that had nearly rotted away. The children were excited to see us - one even remembered who we were and asked if Cruz was with us! We were all (hopefully) moved to see the cirmcumstances in which these people were afflicted. We had supper back at Lar Rogate with Audir and the Bishop, and then spent the rest of the evening preparing our materials for the rest of our work.

How may you pray? We would ask that you pray for unity in our team. Safety, as we are in not the most pleasant areas. And a general focus of heart.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mission 2007 Departing Soon

We have now become the CELP (Christian Education and Leadership Program) 2007 Mission Trip to Brazil. This time around we are divided into two groups, on of which will travel in June, and the other today, March 16. We will provide more detailed updates as soon as possible. Our thanks and commendation in the Kingdom to all who have supplied the real force behind the work: prayer.