A Missionary is Never Alone: Introduction (Part 1)

Loneliness is something that I have struggled with off and on in my life.  There are times in the US where I remember feeling lonely but during my past year plus in Brazil at times I have felt more lonely than any other time.  In my conversations with other missionaries they have also felt the same or similar feelings of loneliness.  It is easy for a missionary to feel lonely and isolated in a country where you don’t know the language and do not have any friends or prior close relationships.  Over my time here I have learned to fight the feeling of loneliness.  There are really 4 different groups of people who have helped me with battling different aspects of my feeling of loneliness.

Before I delve into an overview of these 4 groups, I would be remis without talking about the one who helped the most with my feelings of loneliness.  God, the creator and sustainer of the heavens and the earth, is the one who has helped me with my loneliness the most.  It was important for me to really remember that God is intimately involved with all aspects of my life and is always there to talk with even when no one else is awake or present.  Knowing God and his character and nature has really helped me with my perspective on feeling lonely and how to respond well.

The first group is that of the prayer warriors who are regularly and faithfully praying for me.  There are 410 different people, families, or churches who receive my monthly prayer updates.  If you would like to sign up to receive my prayer letters or quarterly updates please use the link.  I am so thankful for all of the prayers and I can definitely see that the LORD has answered many of these prayers.  This group has really helped me not by physically being present but by continually taking my requests before the God who answers all requests.  I am so thankful for their faithful prayers prior to and during my time here in Brazil.

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Youth Group

The second group is that of the financial partners who have been faithfully giving over the past 17+ months that I have been in Brazil.  This group is super important because without them I would not be able to do what I have been doing in learning the language and building relationships.  I am so thankful that I have not had to worry about finances during my time here in Brazil due to the faithful giving of so many people and churches.  My loneness would not be possible without all of your support but in all seriousness this group has helped my feelings of loneliness by seeing their faithful support.  It is great to know that the LORD has been working through these people/churches to provide for my needs here in Brazil.

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Dinner with National Friends

Loneliness is part of normal life for missionaries but that loneliness is exasperated by the transformation of previous relationships that I used to count on.  I miss my friends and family greatly in the United States and that is only heightened at times when I miss significant events in their lives.  However, it is great to be able to talk with many friends and family using Skype, WhatsApp or even Instant Messenger.  The text messages or WhatsApp messages that I have received talking about exciting or daily events in life have been a very encouraging thing and have helped me to deal with my feeling lonely.  There are also the times where we are able to use these different programs to have video conferences with many friends and family that have really helped deal with my loneliness.

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Dinner with Fellow Missionaries

As difficult as the first year and a half has been it is also great to make new friends in Brazil.  I have enjoyed the process of getting to know other missionaries and Brazilians.  The patience that my Brazilian friends have shown in getting to know me is amazing.  I have been so thankful for all of the relationships that I have been able to make over the past year.  These relationships have really helped me deal with my feelings of loneliness because God has created us to be social people and forming friendships with Brazilians and other expatriates here in Brazil.

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Metal Works Project

I have an opportunity to think about different projects and things to do around my house to enhance different parts of my apartment.  One of the things that I have had done is to have different metal projects made.  I am so thankful to have a friend whos uncle is a metal worker.  His business is Arte em Aço (Steel Art) and he does great work.

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Arte em Aço (Steel Art)

When I was thinking about having some of my friends visit from the states one of the things that they worry about is having drinkable water.  While the water here in Ivoti is great, I wanted them to have access to filtered water.  Not having lots of counter space I decided to have a metal stand made for the water filter.  I have to say that I am happy with the way that the stand turned out and look forward to having him make more projects for me.

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Metal Water Stand

Preaching in Ivoti

I had the joy of preaching in Ivoti on July 1.  I preached on Philippines 1:6 on that God Began and will Complete all of his work.  I have seen great improvements in my Portuguese sense the first time I preached.  I am also thankful for the improvements that others are talking about sense the previous time that I preached.  I felt more comfortable preaching in Portuguese than I ever have.

Preaching

Beginning the Sermon

While preparing for this sermon it was great to feel more free in being able to express what the passage is saying and more confident that people will understand the points that are being made.  I was very encouraged in that I had only a couple of handfuls of words that I needed to look up because I didn’t know them.

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Making a point during the sermon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was great to feel comfortable enough while preaching to add some unplanned sentences and to also be able to emphasize different words or parts of phrases.  I am so thankful that my language abilities are improving.  It was also encouraging to hear comments from people as to how they were encouraged by the sermon.

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Final Prayer bringing the sermon to a close

Thesis Defense Presentation

I was honored to be asked to come to the thesis defense presentation by my friend Douglas.  This marks the second thesis defense presentation that I have gone to while in Brazil.  It also marks the first where I felt like I really understood what was going on.  The problem as presented was that in the demand for internet was going to be 10 times as much in 2020 as it was in 2013 and the current infrastructure is unable to facilitate that dramatic a rise.

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Explanation of the Need

There are many possible solutions to this problem but the solution that was studied was using light to transmit the data rather than electrical currents.  The theory is that different light beams can carry different data streams and then be combined into one current and then later split back into the individual light beams to transmit the data.

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Diagram of the Theory

The math behind the splitting of the light beams and the use of prisms  to refract the light at not only the entrance into the data stream but also the termination of the data stream was very familiar.

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Explaining how the math works for the testing the theory

In the end not only was I honored to be invited but it was interesting for me to be able to understand what was going on but also the theory used.  I am thankful that Douglas’s Thesis was approved and that he will now graduate.

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Results of the Testing Completed

Sunday Church Services

This past Sunday I had the joy of going to 2 different church services in two different cities.  Normally church for me is only a night time event in part due to the culture which normally does not rise early Sunday mornings.  There are also some churches here which have morning and evening services but they are normally due to these churches having been started by a foreign missionary.

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Worship in Vera Cruz

The two churches which I visited was Igreja Batista Pioneira em Vera Cruz and Ministerio Biblico Ivoti  The Pastor of Igreja Batista Pioneira em Vera Cruz is Marco Ribeiro and he has been working to help plant this church for the past 3+ years.  It was very encouraging for me to see the worship and the participation of the children with the worship in song.

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Singing with the Children

Pastor Marco preached on many different bible stories but I don’t remember his main point.  I do remember listening to all of the different points and enjoying how he used many different bible stories to illustrate his points.

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Listening to Pastor Marco preaching

I am a member of Ministerio Biblico Ivoti and have been regularly going here almost every Sunday night that I have been in Brazil.  I am thankful that I have been able to develop many friendships here.  We normally begin with singing cutting edge early 90’s Christian worship songs.

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Listening to Pastor Andreu Preach in Ivoti

Pastor Andreu has been working his way through Roman’s this year and is now entering the final Chapter.  Preached on Romans 16:1-2 on Febe.

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Everyone Listening to the Preaching

 

The Strike has Ended

I have learned lots from this 11 day truckers strike which ended a couple of days ago.  The first thing that I learned is that the entire economy of Brazil is dependent upon truckers and does not function without them.  The second thing is that Brazilians reacted to the strike by stocking up on the goods that they need or think that they need.  The third thing is that when Brazilians see another get something an advantage they will do what they can to get an advantage for themselves.  Other things have been learned but I am thankful for getting to experience the strike and to have lived safely through it.

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Long Lines for Gas

The gas lines during the strike and shortly after the strike were very long.  I know people who waited 2+ hours for the opportunity to fill up or top off their tank.  Above is a picture of a line that was almost 3/4 of a mile long that I saw while driving last Tuesday at the height of the strike.

Strike

Protesters for Other Causes

During the strike other people thought that they should get into the action so they blocked the main highway near Ivoti.  The group above was protesting trying to get better funding for education.  They did not say that they were supporting the truckers but all of the signs were asking for better education.  Another group that blocked the road further down the road is pictured below.  This group was asking for military intervention.  They believed that the military should intervene in the conflict and remove the president and settle the strike.  It is the perception of Brazilians that the military is less corrupt than the politicians who are running the government.  I am thankful that the military did not intervene but there is still lots of speculation and uncertainty in Brazil due to this strike and other issues.

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Protesters Calling for Military Intervention

 

Game 1 of the NBA Finals Party

The first game of the NBA finals provided an opportunity for me to have friends over to watch the game.  It was great to have lots of friends over and I think that they really enjoyed not only the food but also the game.

Basketball

Game Time Meal

To watch the game I had friends sitting all over the entire family room area.  I am thankful for the time that I got to spend with my friends.

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Watching the Basketball Game

At times the game was not that interesting and so some of the people would be answering messages on their phone.  I am not surprised these days by people using their cell phones all the time and I am guilty of the same many times.

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Sometimes a message is more interesting than the Game

One of the things that I enjoy doing is preparing a meal for people when they come over.  For game one I made a riff on baked Ziti using tortellini instead of ziti pasta.  I think that it turned out very well and everyone enjoyed the dish.

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Normally a Meal is an important part of each game

 

Missionary Fellowship

It is important for missionaries to have some fellowship time with other missionaries.  Our team is in Rio Grande do Sul is separated and currently does not have anyone who is working in even the same city as each other.  It was at the suggestion of one missionaries wife that we get together to celebrate his Birthday.

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Homemade Pizza

It is always important to sare food when getting together but this time was special with Mandy making great pizza and a wonderful birthday cake for Maicol.

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Birthday Cake

I had the privilege of taking pictures of the Birthday boy and his family.

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Family Picture

We were able to play games with the entire family, including the kids.  Once the kids went to bed we were able to play some more complex games with just the adults.  I am thankful for the time that I was able to spend with these other missionaries and strengthen the friendships that I am building with them.

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Adult time after the kids bedtime

 

Cultural Learning: Strike in Brazil

When I went to the men’s bible study last week on Wednesday night I saw some cars in line to get gas at the gas station at an unusual time and with an unusual number.  I thought it was strange but it got stranger talking with the guys.  They mentioned that all of the gas had been shutoff in Brazil.  This came as a surprise to me because I don’t follow the local news very closely and didn’t know that the truckers had gone on strike the day before.  Needless to say this information put a little damper on the men’s bible study.

Gas

Gas Station 1 with a line of cars

Due to my Portuguese abilities I had to ask a couple of times for the guys to clarify what I thought that I had heard from them.  It was very hard for me to fathom having the gas cut off from all of Brazil.  Then I figured out that they were also saying that the truckers had gone on strike and were blocking some of the major highways in Brazil.  Further causing me concern, they expressed that this was happening all over Brazil and not just in an isolated place.   Due to trucking being the major/only way that goods are transported in Brazil the crisis is initially only gas but consumer goods are sure to follow.  My friends warned me that I should have purchased gas before study and that I needed to go in the morning to top off my tank if I had not done that already.  When I asked them how long they though this strike would last they said anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.  Further scaring me, they then mentioned that the airports were already running out or had run out of gas.  My immediate thoughts were, “What have I gotten myself into?”  Well, on my morning walk I saw that the lines had already begun to form very early at the gas stations.  After getting back from my walk I went to get top off my tank of gas.  It only took 30+ minutes of sitting in line to complete this task.

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Gas Station 2 with a line of cars

After study I did some more research into what was actually happening and that it seemed like it was not as bad as my friends lead me to believe.  Even though the government was trying to actively end the strike and reopen some of the major roads which has been blocked by truckers on strike it didn’t seem like an easy or quick solution was possible.  As a part of my research I reached out to my team members and they all helped clarify what was actually happening.

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Alternative view of Gas Station 2 and the lines of cars

This event really opened my eyes to a cultural observation that I had heard before but never really internalized, that being that Brazilians tend to be pessimists.  This realization scared me because in my understanding of the language I am not able to pick up some of the nuances and tend to take everything I understand in a very literal sense.  Thinking that Brazilians are generally pessimists is something that I will definitely think through as I continue to live here.

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Gas Station 2 the next day

The situation has continually gotten worse with Porto Alegre, the nearest major city and about the size of Los Angeles,  running out of gas on Friday and many other smaller cities running out of gas shortly thereafter.  I went to bed Thursday night with the though that there might be a temporary agreement in place but Friday it was rejected by the Truckers.  Everything has continually gotten worse with people thinking that this might stretch on for a couple of weeks.  Many people who I am talking with are thinking that the strike needs to end soon (Monday or Tuesday at the earliest with Thursday being the latest) but are also very sympathetic to the truckers who are striking.  I have prepared for about a week without going to the store but it is still a little scary for me.  I have determined that I will not be traveling any distance, even to Porto Alegre, without the strike ending and normal commerce resuming.  I am thankful for all of my friends that I have made here and have comfort that they will be able to assist me if this gets appreciably worse here.

Cooking Hamburgers for a Retreat

I had the privilege of cooking hamburgers for a church plant that fellow ABWE missionaries started and are working at.  Logos is the same church plant that I had the privilege of discipling some of the young men and also baptizing two of them last year.

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Kitchen Help mixed and prepared the burgers

This year they asked me to come and cook hamburger’s for the retreat.  With the help of the kitchen ladies it was easy to make all 52 hamburger patties.

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Formed Hamburger Patties

My main responsibility was to provide the recipe and to cook the burgers for everyone.  Cooking the burgers was fun but with everyone’s help we were able to have all of the burgers cooked on time.

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Cooking the Hamburgers

I was so encouraged to hear Richter’s testimony at the sito da esperansa. It was cold during the part of the retreat that everyone was bundled up but even with the cold they were able to hear the testimony of an engineer.

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Listening to Richter’s testimony

The messages at the retreat were given by my pastor Andreu.  Andrew preached from Romans 8 during the part of the retreat that I attended and it sounds like everyone was encouraged.

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Pastor Andreu preaching at the retreat on Romans 8

It was clear that everyone was having fun at the retreat.  I liked this picture of some of the ladies helping set up the burger bar for dinner.

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Having fun setting up the burger line

Once the burger bar started the people liked up and enjoyed the hamburgers.  They smelled the hamburgers cooking during the message and enjoyed eating all but 6 of the hamburgers we made.  There was about 30 people who were at the retreat and It seemed like each and everyone enjoyed the food.

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Burgers are served

After cooking the burgers I joined the people in playing games until I left later that night.  I am so glad that I could be a part of this retreat and enjoy a good meal with them.

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Playing games at the retreat