Youth Retreat in Santa Catarina

I had the privilege of preaching at a youth retreat this past weekend.  I was so thankful for the opportunity which was presented to me.  I prepared to preach 4 different messages on Evangelism over the weekend.  The three messages were 1) Our Great Salvation, 2) The Gospel Messenger, 3) Preaching the Gospel, 4) Examples of Gospel Proclamation in the Scriptures.

retreat

Awesome Retreat Housing

The youth message was well received by the majority of the youth at the retreat.  I heard that one of the non-Christians repented during the retreat and that many of the Christians were challenged by the different messages.

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Breakfast at the Beach

I enjoyed the various beaches we were able to visit while at the retreat.  I had a wonderful time at the great beaches with the youth group.  One of the cultural takeaways for me from the weekend was how much Brazilians enjoy their beaches.

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Beach Day

I also enjoyed talking with all of the youth at the retreat.  I was reminded of how much progress I have made in my Portuguese language skills and also how much farther I still need to grow.  It was frustrating to not be able to communicate at times and how I could only understand some of the general conversation topics and not all of the specifics.  One of the encouraging parts was listening to the translation and being able to understand most of the translation.

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Bonfire Preaching Opportunities

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Beautiful Beaches in Santa Catarina

 

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First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I normally spend with friends and/or family.  This year was my first Thanksgiving as a full time missionary in Brazil.  This year I was in charge of making the green bean casserole and the broccoli casserole.  I enjoyed making the casseroles and it seems like people enjoyed them because there was only a couple of servings of green beans left when I came home.

Thanksgiving

Broccoli, Bacon, Rice and Cheese Casserole

I loved that we were able to get together as a missions team for Thanksgiving.  We also were able to have some other expat’s come to the Thanksgiving festivities.  It was awesome to see the great turkey’s carved and then enjoyed by all.

Thanksgiving 1

Carving the Turkey

There was plenty of food for everyone to enjoy at the meal.  After the meal we were able to watch some American Football and play some games with the kids.  I really enjoyed my first Thanksgiving as a missionary in Brazil and I look forward to many more Thanksgivings in the years to come.

Thanksgiving 2

Plenty of food for everybody

 

All Brazil Conference

My first all Brazil conference was a great experience.  It was about a week long and had all of the ABWE missionaries from Brazil who were not on furlough.  It was great to have all of the visitors from the states there.  One church even sent 7 individuals to serve us at the conference.  There were also 13 other people who came to serve us at the conference.  I am so thankful for all of the different ways that these servants blessed us missionaries.

Conference

Introductions to the team from Bethesda that served us

We had a great time singing together during the conference.  It seemed like we would sing before and after each session.  It was the first time in 9 months where I was able to sing each song that was played during that part of the worship service.

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Worship as a group

4 mornings during the week we had a training session for at least 3 hours.  The topic of this conference was Essential Mission Components 2.  During EMC 2 we learning about holistic ministry, networking, partnerships and some other topics.

Conference 1

EMC 2 in the mornings

At EMC 2 all of the different teams worked at different tables to go through all of the different topics.  It was a great opportunity to get to know my team better and to work as a group to better understand our region and how to strategically reach Rio Grande Do Sul.

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Singing before each Session

One of the ways that us missionaries were blessed was all of the different candy that was brought from the US.  Our table especially liked the Reeses Peaunt Butter Cups.  I had some fun with our answer paddles on the table.

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Fun with the answer boards

One evening we got to hear a story of how Al Yoder almost crashed his airplane once.  He was a great storyteller with not only great verbal inflections but also fantastic mannerisms and expressions.

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Listening to Missionary Stories

A favorite part of the conference was talking with many of the veteran missionaries.  I was extremely blessed to have them drop some serious wisdom on me about missions and some practical tips specific to Brazil.

Wisdom

Receiving Wisdom from Veteran Missionaries

 

Culture Learning: Churrasco

One of the things that any missionary has to do is to learn the culture of the people and country where they are going to serve.  I have had some difficulty learning Brazilian culture but this time it was a joy.  An important aspect of the South Brazilian (Gaucho) culture is that of Churrasco or BBQ.  One night at the church they decided to make Costelas (Large Beef Ribs) and I had an opportunity to learn about this part of the culture from some of the men in the church.

Culture 1

Preparing the Meat (Costelas) Gaucho Style

It was great to be able to talk with these guys about some of the cultural differences in Churrasco in the United States and Brazil.  The simple difference is that in Brazil they like to really taste the flavor of the meat and only season it with salt while in the United States they like to add different flavors and sauces to the meat.

Culture 3

Learning from the Guys

The other thing that I really like about the Brazilian culture is that they cut slices off of the meat and snack as they cook.  I really enjoyed being able to sample the sausage and some of the meat that has already been cooked.

Culture 2

Snacking on meat

After the meat was cooked it was cut of the bones and into chunks before it was served.  These men are much more skilled with their knife work than I am but at some point in the future I hope to catch up. After reading this I am now hungry for Churrasco again and hope that you are too.  P.S. If you ever visit me we will definitely have to do Churrasco.

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Costelas are served

 

Cooking Brazilian (Pastel)

I have not tried to cook many authentic Brasilian food in my time here except for churrhasco.  For a while I have been thinking about cooking a Pastel but have not tried until now.  A pastel is a baked or fried pocket filled with sweet or savory stuffing.  I decided to make a savory pastel.

Pastel 1

Savory meat sauce

The most important part of a pastel is the sauce.  I made a meaty sauce with onion, bell pepper, garlic and a tomato base.  It would be a great sauce and was specifically made nice and think so that it would not run out of the cooked pastel.

Pastel

Pre-baking pastel stuffed with cheese and meat sauce

I purchased the pastel dough and stuffed it with motzerella cheese and the prepared sauce.  I then placed it on top of a metal rack so that the bottom of the pastel would be crisped while I baked it.

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Post baking pastel

The pastel turned out great with the filling piping hot and the dough nicely browned.  It was great to have the pastel dough nice and crisp and the correct liquid content in the stuffing so it did not flow out of the pastel after I cut it.  I will definitely have to make this again because it turned out great.

Pastel 3

Yummy Dinner

 

A Missionaries Real Day

After giving my perspective on what I thought was the ideal missionary day I want to give you a picture of an actual day in my life.

I wake up early so that I can study, pray, and exercise before class.  After reading my bible I normally begin to do some studying before it get’s light enough for me to go and get some exercise.  The bible reading and prayer times are not as rich as I would hope for.  At times it feels like I am talking to a wall instead of the God of the universe when I am praying.

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How devotional and prayer time feel at times.  Just empty framework.

The day continues with me not understanding what is going on during my Portuguese class.  It seems like I am starting to understand what is going on during class but my mind is not functioning properly.

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Pictorial representation of the mess in my brain during Portuguese class at times

I get to go and have lunch after class with friend.  We talk in English and for that I am thankful.  At the end of lunch I forgot that I had a meeting later that day.  I check my phone for the time and figure out that I can actually make the meeting on time.

I get to my meeting and the person that I am meeting is going to be getting there late.  We had a great conversation and I eventually look at my watch and realize that we just spent 3 hours at the meeting and not 1 hour like I planned.

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Empty Parking Space means I get to walk to class

After the meeting I run to the auto mechanic to get car fixed.  The day before I noticed that my air conditioner was not working and my car wouldn’t two minutes after I turned it off.  I get to the mechanics and thankfully he is still there.  I then called uber for the first time in my life to get home.  I am now going to have to uber back to the mechanic tomorrow to pick up my car in the afternoon.

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Time to clean so I can study

When I get home I remember that I still have to clean and do laundry today before I begin to study for class tomorrow.  I am actually hungry and open my refrigerator to reveal that I have some pasta left over from earlier in the week and not much else in the fridge.

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Home to an almost empty refrigerator

I was able to study for 2-3 hours at night before I got too tired and began to watch the Thursday night football game until I went to sleep.

 

Importance of Friends

During the very quick trip back to California I was able to spend a couple of meals with some friends.  Unfortunately I was unable to see and meet with every friend in the area.  One of my oldest friend’s Ken and his wife Sherrie happened to be visiting my parents at the same time I did.  It was great to be able to have breakfast with Ken and my Dad.

Friends 1

Dad, Ken, and Me

I was also able to have dinner and catch up with two dear friends of mine.  Matt and Josh are also old friends of mine.  It was great to have a meal with them and their family one evening.  I am so thankful to have faithful friends who support me.

Friends

Josh, Matt, Seth, and Me

No missionary is an island unto themselves.  I was reminded of this during my visit to the United States this past week.  I am so blessed to have many friends all over the United States who are faithfully supporting me in many ways.  I wish that I could have spent time with all of my friends who contacted me about visiting when I was in the States.  I think that I will need at least 6 months to visit everyone when I return again in about 3 years.

 

A Missionaries Ideal Day

When I thought of being a missionary I had many preconceived notions of what it would be like and how I might be different than the norm.  I knew that my day would never mirror the day that I describe below but it didn’t keep me from dreaming that this day might actually happen.

The ideal day would begin with getting up and having a wonderful 1 hour devotional time studying the scriptures and praying.  Following the studying of the scriptures and prayer I would go and get about an hour of exercise during which I would be able to continue to pray.

Ideal Day 2

Portuguese Class

After this I would prepare to go to Portuguese class.  While in class I would instantaneously understand all of the material for the day and be able to clearly articulate these things to my teacher.  Following class I would go to the local supermarket and pick up the exact food that I am wanting to eat for the day.  I would run into a neighbor who want to talk.  We would have a great conversation about life that would end with me inviting them to come to church and them saying that they would come next Sunday.

Ideal Day

Quality Conversations

On my way home I ran into the lady who cleans the common space in the apartment building.  We have a great conversation that began with the current weather and ended with a great conversation about how she is Roman Catholic and how that is different than being Christian.

Following this conversation I was able to study and understand all that I was trying to learn in my Portuguese class.  After about 5 hours of quality study time I feel very accomplished and ready for my guests to arrive.

Ideal Day 1

Fellowship with Church Friends

That evening I have a family from the local church come over to my house for dinner.  We have a great time over food and I am able to clearly communicate with them in Portuguese.  We play games until midnight and then I get some quality sleep until I wake up the next morning.  Thus ends my ideal day.

Agape Fellowship

Two Sunday’s ago my church in Brazil had an Agape Fellowship time of prayer, communion, and fellowship.  It was great to have about 30+ people come to the Agape Fellowship.  I enjoyed listening to all of the people praying and the devotional.

Agape

Corporate Prayer

After corporate prayer, the devotional, and communion we had a potluck.  It was great to have all of the people make different things to eat.  For this Agape Fellowship I made Mac & Cheese similar to what my grandmother used to make.  The big difference is that they do not have Velveeta cheese in Brazil so I had to use a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheese to make the cheese sauce.  The Mac & Cheese was well received by the people at the church.

Agape 1

Lunch is Served

After getting your food we all sat down at one long table to eat all of the food.  I am thankful for my friends at the church who speak a little slower when I am around so that I can better follow the conversation and even participate.

Agape 2

Meal with the Church

Thankful for Friends

Over the past few months I have had many friends come over to my house.  As much as I have enjoyed having them over and cooking different meals for them I was reminded this past week about how much things have changed recently.  I had a few friends over this past week and they commented on how much my language skills have improved from the last time they visited.  I am so thankful for friends who are willing to come over and put up with my non-existent to poor language skills.  Of course it helps when you bribe them with good food.

 

Friends

Food Bar

 

This past visit was special for me as I was able for the first time to pray in Portuguese before the meal.  I feel like it went ok.  The other thing that was special was that I was able to give about a 10 minute devotional in Portuguese for my friends.

 

Friends 1

Food and Fellowship