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

 

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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.

Gas 1

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

 

Local Pastors Meeting

I go to a monthly pastors meeting every month.  This meeting is normally is the first Thursday of each month and is hosted by one of the pastors at their church or retreat center.  We had about 10 churches and two local retreat centers represented at the meeting this month in Ivoti.

Pastors

Conversations before and after the event

The fellowship is a very important part of these meetings.  I have talked with the pastors and each of them feels like this meeting is very important.  With only about 15 like minded churches located in a city the size of Los Angeles it is common to have these pastors feel very isolated and lonely.  The conversations that happen over the meals and before and after the meeting are vital to the local pastors.

Pastors 1

Fellowship over breakfast

Following breakfast we have a time were the host pastor shares an encouraging devotional and then we get down to business updates and prayer requests.  Typically after prayer requests we break up into smaller groups to pray.  I am so thankful for all of these men and the opportunities that I have had to practice my Portuguese with them and build relationships over the past year plus.

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Spiritual Encouragement and Prayer 

Ivoti was the host church and my contribution was making an egg, onion, bell pepper, bacon, cheese, and potato casserole.  I think that it turned out well and the guys liked it also because there was none left over. 

 

Bulls vs. Ximangos

On May 12 at 2 pm the Bulls played the Ximangos in the Campeonato Gaucho game.  I felt very good seeing everyone show up and also that we were ready to start the game after a good pregame speech.

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Pregame Speech to get the team ready

After an early injury to one of our starting linemen I think that the offensive line gradually settled into the game.  Our defense carried us this game and kept it close the entire game.

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Offensive Line ready to go

The best blocking that our offensive line did was in pass blocking.  Our line was able to give our quarterback enough time to be able to make consistent good decisions.  However, we were unable to finish drives and put up many points.

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Pass Blocking

In the end our kicker was able to tie the game with a fourth quarter kick that ended up sending the game into overtime.  I felt that our line blocking improved throughout the game and during overtime it progressed to where we figured out how to run block also.  We ended up scoring a touchdown in overtime and after the other team also scored a touchdown we were left waiting for them to kick the extra point to tie the game.  Our defensive ended up blocking the kick to preserve the win for us, 13 to 12.

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Final Score

The team was so excited with the win that I was amazed at the celebration.  We had a great time celebrating the win and took a team picture after the game.  It was also good to see that even though it was a heartbreaking loss the Ximangos were great sports and took a group picture with both teams after the game (I am not sure that I could have done that when I was playing).

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Team Picture after the game

I was proud of how the offensive line played this game that I am looking forward to the next game and to see how they will improve.  I am already thinking of some drills to get them ready and improve certain aspects which I felt were lacking.

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Offensive Line Picture

 

Guest Book

Every time someone comes over to my house I have them sign the guest book before they leave.  The guest book idea began with visiting my Uncle and Aunt in Austria when I was 18 and signing their guest book.  I was so honored to sign a guest book that had been signed by kings and foreign dignitaries. When I first signed the guest book I was about 2 years old and my parents traced my hand on the page.  When I visited while I was 18 I traced my 18 year old handprint over my 2 year old handprint.

Guest Book

My Guest Book

I never started one until I became a missionary and I knew that now was the time.  I got my guest book before I left for the missions field as a gift from my sending church.  During the going away party many of my friends signed the book.  During some rough lonely times the first few months in Brazil I would read what my friends wrote for encouragement.

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Encouraging words from my going away party

At times I will go back through the guest book to read what people have written and it is interesting to see how some of the Brazilian’s wrote very complex difficult sentences that I am only now able to really understand what they wrote without using google translator. I am so thankful for the reminders of who has come over and how they enjoyed their time.

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Some of my first guests

It is also very interesting to see the look on peoples faces when I tell them that they need to sign the guest book before they leave.  The very concept of a guest book is as common in Brazil as it is in the United States, that is to say it is not very popular.  I look forward to the time when I can look back at the book years later and see all of the different people who visited and their comments.

Guest Book 1

Favorite Note: “I was here again, thank you” or “Eu estive aqui novamente, obrigado”

Futeball Americano Practice and Going Away Galeto

This past Sunday futebal practice was special as it was the last practice for the other missionary who got me into helping coach the Canoas Bulls.  It is very clear that Lucas Bair had an impact on many of these guys who are on the team.  

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Football Practice

It was Lucas’s involvement with the Bulls that got me involved in the first place.  Through his encouragement I started to come to football practice and have continued to become more involved over time.

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Lucas addressing the team after Practice

After practice Lucas addressed the team and said goodbye to them.  Lucas is heading back to the states for furlough. To celebrate (mourn) his leaving the guys barbequed chicken and Lucas brought hot sauce and blue cheese ranch sauce.

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Eating BBQ chicken with some spicy sauce

It was great to be able to eat with the guys after practice.  I was greatly encouraged by the comradery and conversations that happened during the meal.

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One Last time to say goodbye

 

 

Time with Friends

I am so thankful for all of the time that I have had with friends recently.  I am so thankful for my friends who have patience with me as I practice Portuguese.  It is also very nice when I don’t have to cook for myself.  I am so thankful to have such great friends.

Friend

BBQ Rib dinner at Marcos house

I enjoy spending time with my friends but it has also revealed another of many weaknesses in my Portuguese.  That weakness is that I am struggling with being a part of group conversations.  Group conversations are difficult because Brazilians talk over each other all the time, I struggle to understand multiple voices talking at the same time, and normally multiple conversations talk place in the same group.  When I speak Portuguese unless it is a simple phrase or a topic that I know the vocabulary well I struggle with forming sentences quickly enough to be an active part of the conversation.  However,  I have seen growth in this are and know that the more time I spend in these environments the better my Portuguese will become.

Friend 1

Grilled Chicken Dinner at Johns house

 

Coxinha da Asa

I had the privilege of having 10 friends over to my house for coxinha da asa, chicken wings, the other night.  It all started with one friend asking if I had seen a video of a guy trying 30 different hot wing sauces and asking if we could do something like it.  I said send me the video and I will see if we can do it.

Coxinha

Barbeque the chicken wings

We finally decided that about 10 people would be the max and that 5-6 sauces would be a good number because then everyone could try one of each and then eat more of the sauces that they prefer.  The death sauce which I made was good but I wanted it to be hotter,  I went and purchased 5 different peppers that I found in Brazil and then blended them together to make the sauce.  I purchased the sweet pepper sauce and Frank’s hot sauce and the sweet pepper sauce was probably my second favorite sauce of the day.  I also made teriyaki, barbeque, and garlic parmesan sauce from scratch, I think that the barbeque was my favorite sauce of the day.

Coxinha 1

Franks, Garlic Parmesan, Barbeque, Sweet Pepper, Teriyaki, and Death Sauces (rt to lt)

Along with the chicken wings I also made ranch dipping sauce from scratch to dip the wings into.  It is important when you have wings that you also have a couple of sides.  The sides for the night were carrot sticks, a classic pairing, and homemade macaroni and cheese with candied bacon topping.

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Full Table of Food

I am so thankful that my friends were able to come over and enjoy the food.  It is pretty clear that they were all comfortable with the events of the night.

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Enjoying the meal

My churrasceira did not hold all of the chicken wings so I had to cook them in 3 batches in the grill.  The first batch seemed to just wet the appetite of the people for more wings.  I am glad that between everyone there was one or two sauces which they liked and they were all different.

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Everyone was able to eat their fill

One of my favorite part’s of the night was seeing cemetery full at the end of the night.  Seeing the bones of about 7 kilos of chicken wings in one bowl was a sight to see.

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The Cemetery

 

Prayer: A Missionaries Lifeline

Prayer is a vital lifeline for all missionaries.  Personal prayer times are a vital part of any Christians personal walk and corporate prayer on your behalf is just as important especially for a missionary who can easily feel isolated and out of touch with friends and family.  Knowing the necessity of prayer I decided that not only would I raise financial support but I would raise 200 people who would commit to praying for me on a monthly basis.  I am under no illusions that the people who committed to pray for me will specifically pray for me daily but I know that if they take the time to pray at least once a month for me it will greatly change the work down here in Rio Grande Do Sul.  Looking back at the first presentation individual presentation requesting support, February 12, 2016, that I ever made I already had 59% of the desired 200 prayer partners.  These people who signed up to pray for me regularly early in the support raising process, I believe, are a key part of all that has happened in the subsequent years.

Prayer

First Presentation Prayer Request Slide

I quickly found out that I was going to blow past the 200 prayer partners so I upped it to 300 prayer partners because everyone knows that it is better to have more people praying for you.  By the time I made the third iteration (I changed my presentation every time there was a significant change in my support levels, financial or prayer.) of my presentation, February 20, 2016, I had already upped the requested prayer partners to 300.  Well as I traveled around and talked with people it I eventually found out that even 300 people signing up to receive my monthly prayer letter was too few so on the 17th iteration of my presentation, August 6, 2016, it was changed to 400 prayer partners.  When I finally left for Brazil, February 8, 2017, I had 400 people who were receiving my monthly prayer newsletter.

Prayer 1

Open Rate of Monthly Prayer Letter

I have seen many answered prayers over the past years.  I am so thankful for everyone who prays for me on a regular basis.  I was warned by a veteran missionary that the readership of the prayer letters would fall dramatically as the number of people signing up grew but I really didn’t believe him that it would be very drastic.  However,  I have seen the list readership constantly decreasing as the number of signups increased, the list readership has gone from the mid 60’s to the low 40’s percentage wise.  This is discouraging when I focus on what the numbers only but I take heart the bible says that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective,” James 5:16b.

Prayer 2

Final Presentation Prayer Request Slide

Through these past few years I have seen the LORD answer many of the specific prayer requests that have made the list.  Examples of this are raising all of the required support in one year, the ability to clearly communicate the scriptures in Portuguese, and graduating from Portuguese language school.  In the past I was guilty of telling missionaries that I would be praying for them and then not praying for them or at the very best praying for them in a sporadic manner.  Even now I do not pray every day for other missionaries but I do try to specifically and regularly (monthly or bi monthly) pray for missionaries.  I also pray regularly and specifically for all of those who are supporters of me.  Two tricks that use to pray for missionaries is to take some time to pray when I receive the notice of their update in my e-mail and then to pray when I get around to opening up and reading the update, sometimes a day or two after receiving it.  On a side note it is great to receive notes from people saying that they have read the monthly update and are praying for me.  Thank you to everyone who was and is praying for me as a missionary.