Post the Fourteenth in which I solicit your help.

What makes a good story? What makes a bad story? Discuss.

Post the Twelth in which I have an identity crisis

I wrote 800 words today. It's good to see the novel coming together. In the time I've been working on this novel, I've learned a lot about myself and a lot about novel writing. For a long time, I was afraid to finish the novel. After all, an unfinished novel can't be rejected by publishers. The unhappy truth, however, is that an unfinished novel is essentially useless.

So, I'm going to finish the novel. In my quest to conquer my fear of rejection and begin to trust God, I've been encouraged by these words from Paul's second epistle to Timothy:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

I am struck not only by the oft-quoted first phrase but by the second. The spirit God gives us is not a spirit of timidity but one of power and self-discipline.

Up until very recently, I allowed fear to keep me from sitting down at my keyboard every day in a disciplined way and writing this novel. I've been encouraged by Paul's letter to the Romans. He writes in Chapter 8:

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[j] who[k] have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."[l] 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[m] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These words have changed my life. If I write a bad novel, I write a bad novel, but what does that say about my worth as a human being? It sounds like not so much. It would seem that whatever happens, God loves me. I am still learning to really let the truth of this verse affect my view of myself and to truly live in thee freedom God offers me. What a joy to serve a God who would write these things to us. I hope they have encouraged you as they have me.

Post the Eleventh in which my life becomes substantiaally less interesting.

I went to the eye doctor today. I have mixed feelings about the whole eye doctor experience. As a person, my eye doctor is wonderful. Though we see each other once a year at best, she is always warm and friendly and seems to care about me and my life. The procedural side of a visit to the eye doctor, however, is a little bit troubling.
That glaucoma test with the puff of air is bizarre and uncomfortable and generally repugnant. There's nothing good about it except that it ostensibly screens for glaucoma.

There is good news. Both my eyes are still attached and in working order. Apparently diagnostic eye dilation will soon be a thing of the past. My eye doctor has this new digital retina camera that can take pictures of a whole retina without dilation. Sweet. Apparently, the human retina is located underneath all the blood vessels in the eye, so every minute of every day, you're looking through your own blood.

I'll leave you with that.
We're back. We have Dr. Pepper, potable water, and ice once again. Most of us have spent substantial portions of the last 36 hours in our beds. I'm up now, however, and left with the unenviable task of summarizing a trip that changed 630 lives.

Some 600 people accepted Christ. Over the next 365 days, ~200 people will visit all of them at least 1 time. As for the 30 of us, in 12 days our lives were changed. Don't worry. I'm only 21. I can't even rent a car. I didn't set out to change the lives of those who read this blog or teach anyone anything about well...anything. I sought only to encourage those left behind and secure prayer for the team, and, I will admit, create some traffic for this blog. My objectives remain unchanged in my final Mission Brazil post.

I don't know what, if anything, God wanted you to learn from this trip, but I do know what he wanted to teach me. If you'll permit me I'll elaborate briefly. To begin with, let's turn to a very familiar passage from the book of Matthew chapter 28

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and
teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you
always, to the very end of the age."

The command of Christ is relatively clear if you understand what makes someone a disciple. Jesus explains discipleship this way in Luke chapter nine:

23Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

I'm still learning what this means. I think there are hints of what this looks like in Colossians 3, which I've referenced previously.

3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.b]">[b] 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

In his book "A Man of God", which the men of Priority are studying, Dr. Jack Graham suggests that an important part of taking up the cross is acknowledging the death this verse speaks of. As believers, he says, we are dead men-men without time, money, or rights.

Time, money and rights, we may not have, but Christ is in us all-Brazillian and American alike, and we all must follow him. Our Brazilian brethren are now tasked with teaching 600 people what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Pleaase join us in praying for them and those who accepted Christ during the trip. What an encouragement to know that the whole law, which Jesus didn't abolish but fulfilled, rests on two things. As it is written in Matthew 22

35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Throughout this trip, God continued to remind me that it really does come down to loving God and loving people.

Post the Ninth in which we follow the advice of Robin Sparkles.

Today is our day off. After a relaxing afternoon at the hotel, we plan to go to the mall in Maua to shop and eat at a chuhascaria. For the uninitiated, a chuhasceria is a magical place in which waiters swarm you with skewers of meat, and you use small tongs to grab piecs of whatever meat interests you. It's all you can eat.

Yesterday was a very full day. VBS continues, some 180 children are attending. Needless to say, the VBS team is working very hard at the church.

As we have in the past, the rest of us hit the streets of Maua to share Christ with those whom we met.

In the afternoon, a larger group of us returned to Casa Maua and 20-30 boys were saved. It was a joy to be with them; they were kind and well-behaved and had a surprisingly complete knowledge of the American rap and hip-hop scenes. Many of them were disappointed that we didn't know A&M.

This morning we sang for and shared with the whole hotel staff. Thirteen of them prayed to recieve Christ. It would have been terrible to neglectt these people who we have been around all week in our zeaal to share with those far away from uss in the houses and astreets of Maua.

Post the Eighth in which some of us go to jail

Today the plan was for some of us to do vbs, some us to go to a correctional facility for young male offenders, and some of us to go to a school and talk with the children there, but here in Brazil, we are leaves upon the wind. We make plans, but we don't always do the things we planned to do.

Our school team was unable to speak in the school because he teachers there didn't get some sort of permission that they needed. As with many things here, in spite of the skill of our translators, the details were sketchy.

The Jail group had more success. After emptying their pockets of any and all possible weapons, leaving their cameras and bags on the bus, and submitting to a search by prison guards, they were able to speak with 20 boys aged 13-18 who were awaiting araignment for various crimes. Our team presented a skit, and afterwards, one of our team members gave a a more detailed gospel presentation. By Pastor Clausios' count, 13 boys were saved.

Throughout the afternoon, we made visits scheduled by church members. Wilfred Stewart and Mark Grubb led two different men on two different deathbeds to one saviour.

God is moving here. In home visits we are sharing with the husbands, wives, brothers, sons, mothers, daughters, and neighbors of our new friends at IBM. In many cases they have prayed and shared faithfully for a long time, but we have the privilege of leading their loved ones to the Lord. I am reminded of the words of Paul to the Corinthians:
5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you
came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed,
Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who
waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The man who plants and
the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his
own labor.
It is a joy to reap the rewards of the faithful prayer and labor of our Brazilian brethren, and to be united with them in the service of our common Savior through whom we do everything.

As promised, a story from yesterday. Brittany Elkins shared the story of a blind girl who was about nine whom she had met. The girl told Brittany about a time when she had fallen on the bus, and nobody helped her up. Brittany said that it was a reminder to her that sometimes only God will help us when we fall. Praise him that he does. What a vivid picture of the sinfulness of our wounded world and the greatness of our God.

Some prayer requests:

1. Pray for strength and rest for our team as many of us are approaching the limits of our human strength

2. Pray for our translators who are working tirelessly with us. How taxing it must be too translate all day and walk the hills of Maua besides

3. pray that God would speak through Mark Grubb and Brother John who are preaching tomorrow and that many would come to know Christ.

I have no words to thank you adequately for your prayers. We feel them, and they strengthen us. I implore you: continue to lift us before the Father.

Post the Seventh in which we drive to Venezuela(almost)

As yet we have not had share time about the events of today, but all egoism aside, I would like to relay an experience that dad and I shared. Rest assured, a summary of tomorrow's share time that includes stories from today will be part of tomorrow's post. Our team meetings are in thee morning, and I post at night, so by and large, stories involving people other thaan me will be posted the day after they occurred. Please bear with me.

Today, our group had the morning off. A few of the braver of us swam, some went to the zoo, and many slept. We arrived at the church, IBM, at noon. The meal consisted of ravioli, pan fried chicken, and rice and beans. Most of us ate with gusto. Rice and beans are something of a staple here. Many here eat them without other foods though so far our host church has provided a variety of foods to accompany them.

After lunch, our VBS team practiced puppetry and most of the rest of us hit the streats of Maua with translators. Dad and I made a house visit with Aleksandro, a member of our host church.
The woman we visited had led a coven of witches until God miraculously delivered her from her former life one month ago. Aleksandro, pastor Clausius from IBM and perhaps pastor Valmir as well removed two carloads of altars, books of magic, and incense after she was saved.

To get to her house, we drove forty minutes in a red 1971 Fiat. It got us there, but it stalled at every redlight, and at various points, our feet brushed the tops of speedbumps. Seatbelts would have been nice.

From her front door a the top of an impressively long and steep flight of stairs, we arrived in her home. The walls were mostly bare concrete though a picture of the Corinthians, one of two professional soccer teams in a bitter rivalry here, hung on one wall. We shared the gospel with her husband and immediate family. Her husband and two others were converted. In her joy, she asked us to visit her sister as well. We did, and she and two of her daughters were converted.

The pictures attached show the view from the stairs and the two families we spoke to. Aleksandro is in both pictures. he is wearing a polo shirt with horizontal stripes.

Members of our team preached and worshipped at IBM and its mission. All told, ~42 were converted today. More to come tomorrow.

Edit: One picture didn't upolad. The family you see is the first we visited.

Post the Sixth in which some of us wittness a dance fight.

Today we made our first forays into the streets of Maua accompanied by our Brazilian brethren. In groups of five or six, we walked the streets of Maua making visits scheduled by brother Clausius, one of the pastors of our sister church. All told, 112 were converted.

God worked mightily, and I could write hundreds of words documenting what happened. For the sake of time, I'll relay only a few of the stories we heard in share time.

One of our teams spoke with a man who has used a wheelchair since aa surgical accideent took the use of his legs. Our team shared the gospel with him, and Trudy Shirley knelt before his chair, looked him in the eye, and led him in the prayer that ushered him from death unto life.

One of our teams was able to lead twenty children to the Lord in a computer class taught by a believing teacher. Presumably the lines blurring church and state are blurrier here.

Several of our youth shared the gospel for the first time; often with good results. What a joy to rejoice with them.

Today's final story concerns Christina Young. A believing woman, whose husband accepted Christ after Michelle Tyer shared with him, asked for prayer for a sick friend when she learned that Christina was a nurse. Christina said that when the translator began to speak, the woman told him to be quiet and said she didn't need to hear the English. Already crying with joy at the conversion of her husband, the woman cried all the more when Christinaa began to pray for her though she didn't understand the wordss Christina prayed. Praise and honor to our great God who hears the prayers of his children--whatever language they speak.

I am pleased to report that God is already answering our prayers for unity. We are working together, eating together, and worshipping together. In many wasy we are joyfully and supernaturally living the truth of Galatians 3:26-29

26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Language seperates us, but it is a small small thingg compared to God who brings us together. Pastor Valmir shared that our presence gave our Brazillian friends greater boldness to share--praise God. Without them, we would be lost and unable to communicate--one body many parts.

More prayer would be appreciated. Consider praying for these things:

1. Pray that God would continue the work that he has begun and strengthen the bond among all of us, American and Brazillian alike.

2. Pray that many would come tomorrow to hear singing and preaching from us.

3. Pray that God would continue to draw people to himself.

Some of us did wittness a dance fight.

Post the Fifth in which we meet Senhor Rooster

Today was our first full day in Brazil, and we're already rolling. The morning began at about 4 am when a rooster began to crow at about 45 second intervals. As a texan, my first inclination was to kill the thing with whatever was available. My rooster murdering zeal was hampered by utter darkness. Our entire building, exterior lights included I believe lost power for most of the night, and the rooster lived to cock another day. If you are reading this sehnor rooster, if it happens again I'm feeding you to the evil monkey mentioned in yesterday's post (if you're just joining us, yesterday we met an evil monkey who screamed for six minutes straight and may or may not suffer from emphysema or a related ailment.)

After a wonderful breakfast of strong, sweet coffee fruits and pastries, we made our way to our partner church. Once there we heard from pastor Valmir who told us of his churches missionary efforts around their city and around their state and to the very ends of the earth. He told us a lot, and every word of it worthwhile, but one anecdote stands out, which I'll relate tomorrow. We sang tonight and Pastor Valmir preached. Some 12 people were converted. Sorry for the short post--busy day.

Post the Fourth in which, Doc Brown is vindicated

We made it to Brazil. The flight was great. They call the 777 the dreamliner for a reason. Upon arrival, I eagerly wielded what Portuguese knowledge I possess. I knew just enough Portuguese to convince the passport control guy that I spoke Portuguese. That was a little awkward.

Interestingly, swine flu is still a pressing concern here, or ate least it seems to be. All the airport officials were wearing surrgical masks. I'm not concerned. Presumably, God brought me to Brazil to do more than catch swine flu andd drown in my own mucus. Besides, the CDC cleared us to travel here

In any case, after much ado, our wholee party was accounted for as was all of our luggaage with the exception of Michelle Tyre's. We're told that we can expect it tomorrow. Pastor Valmir and Cassius, who I think is his brother, met us at tthe airport and traavelled with us by bus to our hotel. Our hotel is a wonderous place indeed, but first Sao Paolo. SP is an expansive city teeming with people from all over the world. In SP, as in all oof Brazil I've seen thus far this trip and previously, some of thee buildings look like mismatched tetris pieces. Stories are crammed on top of each other with little regard for shape or symmetry, colors clash not only in neighborhoods, but on individual buildings. Reds, greens, pastel blues, oranges, and yellows mesh sometimes with corrugated metal.

Which brings us to Back to the Future II in which Doc Brown says, "Where we're going we don't need roads." Clearly we didn't need roads either as our hotel is some 15 minutes off a paved road. By some combination of skill and miracle, our driver managed to get us there without incident though the roads were wet from the misty drizzle that met us at arrival and fell all day.

Hotel Estancia Lucia is like no hotel I've ever stayed in. Imagine if Ricardo Montalban's Fantasy Island character started a survivalist cult. It looks like that only much nicer and more yellow. The place is more compound than hotel. It appears to be almost entirely self-sufficient. Within its walls it contains among other things: a zoo-complete with a supercool guitar playing resident biologist; a replica western town; a ~1/16 scale model of the HMS Beagle, a bowling alley, 3 swimming pools, Suzie the poison dart frog and two international soccer teams who welcomed us warmly.

The food is good.

More prayer requests if you would:

1. We start visits tomorrow. Pray that God will grant all of us, translators included, restful sleep as tomorrow will be full of both spiritual and physical work.

2. Pray that God would give all of us words to say and allow us to work effectivviely with our Brazillian brotheers and sisters to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

3. It would seem thaat the tenative plan is to speak in outdoor plazas tomorrow. Praay that the weather is conducive toi that, or that God would show us somewhere else to go.

4. Pray for health.