Brazil 2019 — Day 12

WOW!!!  When we arrived at the construction site for a dedication service we all were amazed.  Between when we quit yesterday at about 4 and this evening, all but one section of the corrugated steel roof had been installed.  This meant that more brick had been laid, the steel trusses installed, and then the roof.

The tiny local congregation was most appreciate and let us know of their appreciation multiple times.  Not far from Tacaratu is a community that weaves hammocks, rugs, and the like.  Several of the leaders were presented with hammocks as expressions of gratefulness.  About 7 months ago, the pastor died of a heart attack and his wife is carrying on the ministry.  The work done on his vision this week brought her to tears.  Currently, the members meet in her garage and if you know how small cars are in Brazil, you can get a feel for how cramped they are and in need of space.

Current “sanctuary”

This will be the last post for this trip.  Tomorrow we leave after breakfast for the drive back to Recife.  Then, at 2 AM local time (midnight Dallas), we start our return flights by flying to Sao Paulo, then to Fort Lauderdale, and finally Dallas arriving at about 9:30 PM.  Pray for an equal number of controlled take offs and landings!


Brazil 2019 — Day 12

Double rainbow


Yes, it rained BUT.  God waited to the end of the day with just a sprinkle so that He could bless us with a double rainbow that went from one mountain to another in a complete arc and in the other direction was a golden sunset.  Can we claim this as Him saying “job well done”?

This was the Garland group’s last work day.  A small contingent of the Alabama group will stay next week and most likely will have the shell of the building completed.

VBS wrapped up this morning with an Olympics.  Our version of “Olympics” does not qualify the kids for the next Olympiad but they have fun.  They do things like move all the water in one bucket to another at the other end of the playing field, one sponge at a time while attempting to beat the other line.  Or they have to pass a ball between one person’s legs and over the next person’s head while again attempting to beat the other line.  And of course there is the spin around the bat one that is a hoot to watch as the kids stagger back to tag the next one.

Tonight we have a very special member of the team to interview.  Mr. W. will be a sophomore at the prestigious SMU studying computer science.  This is his first mission trip and his first international trip too.  He came on the recommendation of two of his best friends that were on last year’s trip but could not come this year.  Our youngsters made him feel like he had always been in the group.  Without a bit of hesitation, he replied “Yes” to the question would you do another mission trip.  The Brazilians impress him as being very courteous people.  Oh, and by the way, he has been a Christian for most of a day!  Praise our God.

Robin, our adopted MK (the dog, not the young man)

Brazil 2019 — Day 11

WE ARE HEALTHLY, WEALTHY, AND WISE. Well, at least the first one and compared to a lot of the people we are serving here in Brazil, the second one too. And, many in this group are wise too. We’ve heard rumors that y’alls think we all are sick due to the tone of these missives. That is not true, there have been a very limited number of team members that have had some sort of minor problem limited to insect stings, sunburn, or even a case of upset stomach. Things like that could happen to a group going to Fort Worth to see the rodeo. Nuff’ said.

Today was the last day for regular VBS. If tomorrow is Saturday (the days have kinda gotten jumbled) then we will have a mini Olympics for the kids. There have been close to 100 kids and parents that have prayed the sinner’s prayer. However, keep in mind that not all really meant it, only God knows a person’s heart.

The glasses ministry has also had phenomenal numbers. Somewhere in the range of 300 have made professions of faith. Once again, not all meant it. Some just went along because they thought they had to to get the glasses. Others just wanted to be nice to these crazy Americans.

But, what if just one of these VBS kids or glasses adults becomes the next Charles Hadden Spurgeon, Billy Sunday, or Henry Blackaby? Or they become the praying grandmother that leaves a lasting legacy that permeates beyond her great-great-grandkids? Or one of these precious people is saved from suicide, drugs, or alcohol? This next statement goes against the Southern Baptist way, but numbers are not all that important. People are. So don’t be overly fixated upon our impressive numbers. Your support for these trips, from money to tooth paste and of course most importantly prayers are very valuable and very appreciated.

Guess what – yep, it rained again today but progress on the church building was not impacted. The building is so far along that you have to look much more closely to see the incremental changes.

About 20 ladies watched a demonstration of how to cook from scratch Sloppy Joes and Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies. Finding like products here has been interesting. For example, we just assume that celery will always be available at any supermarket. Not so here as that is not a go to item for a Brazilian cook. Nor do they have dry mustard. And, after we got to the school we discovered that the kitchen has no stove. How do high school students survive without pizza? While watching the cooking the ladies were very involved and all said they would try the recipes at home. The verse that says man does not live by bread alone was slightly mis-translated to man does not live by cookies alone but by every word of Christ. So, even though cooking is not normally associated with evangelism, we tried.

Sorry, again no interview. The youngens (with way too much energy) are leaving right after supper in the first van and are going to a close by arena to play soccer with the local youths. Those of us that drag ourselves to the second van (after the dishes are done) get back too late. And, there was so little change from yesterday, there are no new pictures either.

Brazil 2019 — Day 10

There can’t be a single fly in all of the United States because they all are at a convention in Tacaratu. They even are in a convention mood while it rains, which it did more of today, just less than yesterday. The head forms builder (from the Alabama group) hypnotized that we are less than a day behind where he though we would be.

Looking towards the front doors.

Our journeyman brick layer can now add welder to his resume. The Brazilian that has been contracted to put on the roof (same fellow as last year in Campos Frios) trained him in the art of welding trusses together. Mom and Dad, forget college, your son is set for life. The building is not ready for those trusses just yet but all indicators point to them being installed before the rest of the Alabama group leaves at the end of next week.

Status as of noon on Thursday.

Left is the “Truss Assembly Factory”, Blue tarp is the “Forms Manufacturing Factory”.

Today the Montgomery contingent left, leaving just the Auburn clan. This leaves the glasses ladies short staffed but they are getting the job done.

Vacation Bible School again saw more new excited faces. We had to print about 25 new pictures for that craft activity that most did yesterday. Today was our first full day at the school. Turns out it is not a brand new building as was reported. (Remember, not everything you read on the innerwebs is correct.) But it is in good shape and pretty well maintained and even has air conditioning in the classrooms which is not needed in this cooler damp weather. It is used for senior high students, is an all-day school instead of the usual half day, and is for the more advanced students. Unlike America, we have full use of the facility, general meeting area (open to the outside on two sides but with a leaky tile roof, class rooms, and kitchen. Separation of church and state seems to still just be a concept here and not public policy. The school is a vast improvement from the social club, plus we don’t have to spend God’s money for it. The kids’ joyous singing during the opening assembly could be heard throughout the facility.

The picture of the grasshopper is really a katydid according to our resident entomologist. The background is a standard asphalt street and the bug is about 6 inches long. Chocolate coat that one and you would have desert. The vivid purple flowers is just one example.

Missed the group again tonight. Sorry no profile.

Brazil 2019 — Day 9

Rain, rain go away, come back some other day (preferably after we have left). Yup. it rained again today but the construction crew was not stopped by a little, make that a lot of sky falling. One of our fellows was holding a vertical rebar cage for several minutes in the rain, praying he did not become a direct link between the sky and the ground. Thankfully, rain here is hardly ever accompanied with lightening. The church walls are very close to being complete and almost all of cement columns are poured.

Today for VBS we did the pictures. The kids enjoy this activity very much. We take a portrait of each child and then print them on two small Cannon printers we bring with us. While we are printing the 4×6 pictures, the kids are making a frame. Then we mate up the pictures with the right child’s frame.

Tonight before returning to Portlandia, we vacated the social club. We loaded up the one working van (more about that in a few) in the rain and moved all of our food supplies, remaining VBS material, gifts, etc. to the school. Since today was the last day for school, we have the use of the building tomorrow. Our cooks are a patient lot. You would be surprised at the volume of food it takes to feed this army and we moved all that has not yet been eaten.

We have been challenged with transportation this trip. The latest is that our Fiat van quit this afternoon. It was an electrical issue this time but has been resolved. God is good because He knew we need two vans for tomorrow because some of the Alabama group is returning to Recife tomorrow. Current Star Trek replicator technology is not quite up to cloning things. So, one van will be needed to take us to Tacaratu and the other will need to be heading in the opposite direction.

Sickness has plagued our group this year too. As previously reported, one went to Recife for tests. Reports have eliminated the big things like appendicitis, ulcers, etc. This morning one of our college students woke up under the weather and stayed at the hotel all day. He is much improved this evening. And we have had one nasty wasp sting. Noah has some answering to do for his manifest for the ark.

Ms. P. is our celebrity today. This is her second Brazil trip and her second missionary trip. She comes from far far away because she attends Creek View high school in Carrollton where she will be a senior this fall. But the distance does not keep her from being the sweetheart of another member of our team and attending FBCG. She accepted the Lord as her savior 2 summers ago. Her specialty here is VBS which she makes look easy. Her goal for this trip is to have at least one someone impacted for the Lord by what she is doing.

Brazil 2019 — Day 8

Starting point

Today was not a good day weather-wise for the construction crew. It either drizzled or lightly rained all day. So much so, in fact, that sand had to be added several times to the pans from which the bricklayers were getting their mortar from to thicken it back up. However, we did not come to enjoy the weather. We came to help a local congregation get their first church building and that is what we will do no matter what the weather is

Working with a smile

Construction is moving along and all the walls are up about 6 feet and most all of the initial height (about 4 feet) for the supporting columns are poured. The church will consist of 3 rooms with the main room smaller than some of our classrooms at our church. While pouring one of the columns for the front door, we had a blowout. Nothing that couldn’t be handled by the excellent crew from Alabama. What that means is that the concrete started to bow out the wooden forms and run out. Some of the Alabama crew will be staying into next week. If all goes well, they will leave a church building complete with roof which does not always happen on these trips.

Our journeyman bricklayer

Of course, there is a lot of work that will remain for the local congregation. Nothing more than the shell of the building is what we help provide. Even now, their local people are working hand in hand with us, mostly laying brick. They will still have to cover up the brick, lay tile floors, install doors and windows, plumb and wire the place. So, in no way are we Americans just dumping a building in their laps. They are very invested in their new house of worship.

Seeing Jesus

There is nothing but good news to report about the eye glasses distribution. just little new to report. So, no news is good news and many Brazilians are “seeing” Christ through their new glasses.

VBS also had a fantastic day two. As yesterday, it started with just a few (about 4) but soon swelled to over 40  Tomorrow is the last day of classes here in Tacaratu and this week has been final exams in the morning and the kids have been dismissed in the afternoon. Our VBS is very similar to what you are familiar with at FBCG. The kids have a general assembly, then rotate through crafts and activities. Today’s general assembly featured our master bricklayer as a donkey in a play (he is needed back at the construction site). The construction crew was short several hard workers as they were “borrowed” for VBS.

And, the ladies (all Alabama Southern Bells) doing witnessing via nails and makeup had a bumper crop of local ladies to interact with.

Tonight you will be briefly introduced to one of the adults. Mr. J, is a seasoned veteran of mission trips with about 12 domestic ones. He has stepped up his involvement even more now with his first international one. His time knowing the Lord as his savior is 41 years this month and has been a member of FBCG for 22 years which includes a stint as chairman of the deacons. When asked what he hoped to get out of this trip, his answer could not have been more accurate. He said, mission activities is not about us but about what we can do for others, in this case our fellow Brazilian believers.

Finally, some pictures — no thanks to the local WiFi.  Smartphone hot spots rule!

Monday, January 15

Sheetrock that took a bath complements of Harvey has nothing over steel. Trust us, it becomes impervious and mobile home, err… make that manufactured homes have lots of the stuff in corners and between rooms. Chipping the stuff out of the crevasses is not child’s play. But, you know what, doing it for the Lord made it all worthwhile.

The Texas Baptist men have provided us with all the comforts of home. Well, at least hot showers. After a day of crawling under a trailer removing insulation, trying to figure out how to convert some salvaged chain link fencing into to a cat run for a lady with 23 cats (we failed on that one), and helping a thespian remove sheetrock from his devastated home, the hot shower was a blessing directly from God. Having our laundry done is just icing on the Heavenly cake. Another group of our team had it easy – they got to install tarps on roofs. Luck bums! Their day will come, tomorrow in fact. The weather forecast is for 34 at 8 AM and not predicted to get any better with ice and rain. Those of us that will be inside hammering away at sheetrock will be the ones blessed.

Here is our living quarters.

Rockport mission trip #3 tomorrow

Sunday January 14

While we did not descend upon Rockport with the same furry as Mother Nature unleased upon the town, we did arrive in the power of our Lord and Savior ready to tackle whatever we are ask to do. We snuck in under the cover of darkness so we did not get to see the devastation. That will happen after breakfast Monday. We might be in trouble because the rumor is that the cooks have left and we will have to cook for ourselves. Pray for the 9 of us. Ellen says she can operate a microwave oven. Rumor has it that there will be maybe up to 30 more volunteers here this week. On second thought, pray for them too.

The Texas Baptist Men have two shower trailers and the water is hot. Soap and towels are provided so there won’t be lots of soggy towels coming back to Garland. God is good. The Red Cross has provided cots so we won’t have to sleep on the floor. Here is our living quarters.

Monday, January 15

Sheetrock that took a bath complements of Harvey has nothing over steel. Trust us, it becomes impervious and mobile home, err… make that manufactured homes have lots of the stuff in corners and between rooms. Chipping the stuff out of the crevasses is not child’s play. But, you know what, doing it for the Lord made it all worthwhile.

The Texas Baptist men have provided us with all the comforts of home. Well, at least hot showers. After a day of crawling under a trailer removing insulation, trying to figure out how to convert some salvaged chain link fencing into to a cat run for a lady with 23 cats (we failed on that one), and helping a thespian remove sheetrock from his devastated home, the hot shower was a blessing directly from God. Having our laundry done is just icing on the Heavenly cake. Another group of our team had it easy – they got to install tarps on roofs. Luck bums! Their day will come, tomorrow in fact. The weather forecast is for 34 at 8 AM and not predicted to get any better with ice and rain. Those of us that will be inside hammering away at sheetrock will be the ones blessed.

Brazil 2019 — Day 7

First, there is a bit of bad news. One of our college students is having intense stomach pains which might be the onset of an inherited disease, or not. So, to find the truth he and his parents are making the 7 hour trip back to Recife to see a family friend/doctor to make the determination if a return trip to the United States is needed. To make this situation even worse, this will require us to make other arrangements for travel from Portalanda where we are staying since we will be down one van. God will provide an we covet your prayers for a fast and simple resolution to this paralellipipidos.

For the construction, you could not have sent a better crew. The first order of business this morning was to move about half of a massive stack of bricks to the floor of the new church. Our youngsters stepped up to the task and in no time there were three large stacks on the floor. Then the mixing of the mortar commenced and laying of the brick. When we left for the day the sides and back walls were half way up. One of our talented teens moved through the rankings from novice, then apprentice, to journeyman brick layer. All that in just one day! Mom and dad, if he should fail at college, he has an excellent skill to fall back on and will be able to take care of you in your golden years. Even though this is dry country, they do get rain in the rainy season which is just ending. So, we did get sprinkled on a bit but nothing to stop our forward progress. (Is it progress if it is not forward – we have some strange expressions in English? Do they have the same in Portuguese? )

Over at the social club, things were very hectic. The morning was used to get organized but in the afternoon things got very interesting. The glasses ministry took off full blast and will continue at a feverish pace tomorrow. At least one lady accepted the Lord as her savior and was quite excited about it.

VBS started with a small handful in the afternoon. That is until a teacher excused class so the students could attend (apparently school is still in session). That swelled the numbers dramatically. However, our intrepid team was unfazed. Stay tuned for more about VBS. Remember today was day one of the actual ministry outreach.

Sorry there are no pictures but the internet speed here is so bad that every attempt to upload pictures fails. And the group has wandered off to play soccer or volleyball so there is nobody to snag for tonight’s featured team member.

Brazil 2019 — Day 6

Today was a hard travel day and we spent almost 7 hours on the road. The Alabama group arrived safe and sound with an equal number of take offs and landings (thank God). A gazillion pieces of luggage was loaded into a truck and human cargo was loaded into 3 vans, a Renault, a Fiat, and a Mercedes. These vans seat about 17. Two of the vans belong to the brother of one of our team members. Here in Brazil there are no public school busses like we have in the States. Instead, they are privately owned and that is this man’s business. Since this is the student’s winter break we have the God sent blessing of using them for our transportation.

As we left Recife, the terrain started to change into a series of wide verdant valleys with specular views. Then about a third of the way the view changed again. We had to check our smartphones to make sure we were still in Brazil. The country here looks just like a cross between the Hill Country and West Texas. After the 4 lane highway dropped down to 2 lanes, you would have thought you were on a Farm to Market (FM) road. With one big exception. As we went through towns there were paralellipipidos. In case your Portuguese is a bit rusty, that is a speed bump. Two of the three vans had defective or inadequate air conditioning so the trip was a bit uncomfortable but we all survived just a bit worse for wear.

Here’s an update on the facilities issue. Church construction should be able to proceed as expected. There is a social club that we can rent during the days that has a kitchen and space for the glasses ministry. VBS will be a bit more problematic and we will have to work that one out on the fly. Thursday we will be able to move to the school.

Today’s guest is Mr. V with the same last name as Ms. V profiled earlier. Strangely, they are a happy couple. Should marriage happen, which one will have to change their last name? This is Mr. V’s first trip to Brazil and his first real mission trip. He will be a senior at the ever popular Rowlett High School. Being involved in church has been a part of his life from his baby days because his uncle is a pastor. But again VBS was the time and place where he got saved. He has a whole chapter as his favorite and that is Psalms 23. He hopes to get closer to God and Ms. V during this trip (in that order too) and do his part in spreading God’s word here in Brazil.

Brazil 2019 — Day 5

Today was another quiet day. With all the hectic rest and relaxation of the past few days, the group got a late start, spent a little while on Recife’s best beach, Boa Viagem, ate lunch at a churrascaria (think Texas de Brazil or Fogo de Chão), traveled to Olinda for a fantastic view of Recife and did some shopping for renowned local art and crafts there, and wrapped up the day at a mall. If it weren’t for people speaking a funny language, you would think you were in an American mall, just not Firewheel.

Sorry, no profile of a team member tonight.