It is now a bit over a week since we entered Brazil. I wanted to give a bit of an update one what is going on and how you can pray. Philemon and I arrived at Sao Paulo in the morning of the 9th. Right when we got off of the plane Philemon received the news that his father had died so grief was his companion. We came with our wives this time and were able to get to Atibaia with no problems. We are staying in a small apartment on the church campus that is sufficient to our needs. That evening we all went to another town called Terra Preta where I taught a bible study to the men on marriage and Kim taught on the attributes of God to the ladies. This is a very small church that is one that PIBA (stands for First Baptist Church of Atibaia in Portuguese) supports. It is a church that they are trying to revive for it was close to dying not that long ago.
The rest of the week was teaching. Philemon is teaching the seminary students the synoptic gospels, John and Acts while I am teaching Apologetical Methodology. It is good to see the men again and Philemon and I both see a definite growth in all of them from last year. Their questions are deeper and more informed and they show a growing maturity. All these men are very busy ministering in a multitude of ways through evangelism, serving in various churches, leading bible studies and such. The seminary is definitely church-based and is actively allowing these men the chance to practice ministry as they learn the Word.
Kim and Linda continue to teach the ladies. I was happy to hear the report from Kim about how her time with the seminary and pastors’ wives went. She was able to give a lot of practical advice and encouragement to them all. Several expressed their appreciation hearing her stories because they too have experienced similar situations. It gave the seminary wives a chance to really begin to understand what they can expect, both good and unpleasant, as their husbands take a church to shepherd. They still have two more sessions to go before they are done.
Philemon preaches at PIBA this last Sunday in the AM service. He taught out of Romans 8:31-39 and did an excellent job encouraging us all to remember that God is for us and all we need to do is to look to the Cross to remind us. The church received him well. What was very touching was that they announced (without anyone translating for us) that his father had passed away. Then we watched people begin to file forward to give money to Philemon as an expression of sorrow with him. Very humbling and very touching.
I then preached that evening at the small church in Terra Preta. My text was from 1 Peter 1:3-9 and was exhorting them to see that through the resurrection of Jesus we have a living hope that allows us to not merely endure suffering but to rejoices even as we weep. It was a bit of an adventure because my Surface was not charged as I thought and it ran out of power shortly after starting so I was winging it the whole way. Regardless the text was well known to me and the sermon accomplished much. Kim and I find ourselves “connected” to the pastor and his wife (Jeremiah and Anna). They show a genuine love for the people and yet they also have a difficult road to walk. Small churches (25-30) are so vulnerable to the smallest changes. Just consider what would happen in one family left?
How to pray? First, that all four of us would continue to be faithful in our labors. Second, that we can continue to encourage one another as we interact with each other. Third, while here, things in our “real” lives continue and Philemon and I both have several issues we are addressing from afar. Pray that we not become discouraged nor become distracted. Fourth, pray that the students truly absorbs what we are teaching. Fifth, pray that when we travel (we are driving ourselves) at the end of this week we will be wise and there shall be safe travels.
I hear the rain outside and I smile. I think of the young student who prays each night that his old car will start and there is a deep affection for him as I remember my days of bad cars and much prayer. I walked by his car tonight after class and heard it laboring to start. I prayed, knowing he was praying to and with much joy I heard it start up. Small thing, yet God is in the small things if we would just ask. Then I think of the student who was missing today due to a kidney stone. I am sad for the pain I know he is in and pray for relief.
I think of the class tonight where we discussed a lot of somewhat boring issues but then we settled on the plagues of Egypt and the sobering reality that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh. I reflected with the class how we can discuss the sovereignty of God in cold words but it actually intersects our lives in radical ways that are painful and shocking at times. I exhorted them to not shy from pursuing an understanding on the doctrine and to consider how it is revealed in our day-to-day lives.
Tomorrow Philemon and I will, Lord willing, go for a driving tour of Atibaia with my translator. At times I think he should be teaching the class rather than me, but he is a kind man who faithfully translates for me. I laugh when I think of the couple of times he asked if he might take over for a bit to teach since he is well versed on a specific key point of theology in the Pentateuch. I am able to stand to the side and let him help the students understand.
All of this to say, my God is sovereign and kind to me. I am tired and ready to go home. I am truly encouraged with what I see God doing with these young men and ask that you pray with me that God shall impress upon each of them to own the text of the Scripture. To exegete it carefully and faithfully. To embrace what they see and learn. And teach it to their people. May God continue to pour His grace upon this nation.
With that said, I think I shall sit and relax before starting it all up again tomorrow.
It is Saturday and I am trying to get my final exam created while my computer chooses to lock up at random moments. I think it has a lot to do with it trying to reconcile where in the world I actually am. Regardless, if you don’t get anymore updates it is because I threw the computer through the wall.
Class continues to go well. The students are asking the right questions and I think they are beginning to understand the importance and the complexity of the Pentateuch. It is one thing to have a position on any specific issue, such as creation or the exodus, but it is a whole different thing to understand the other positions, how they came about and interact with them in an honest manner.
Today Brazil is playing soccer against, I think, Italy and they asked me to postpone my class an hour and a half to allow everyone to watch it. I was happy to do so since I have work to do and that means Philemon won’t be in the apartment; rather, he will be with some of the students or faculty watching the game. I am still trying to get Philemon to try fried cheese and he is effectively avoiding it.
Below are two videos of our infamous coffee maker. We are starting to believe it is demon-possessed. I think they explain themselves.
I am relaxing before bed and found out that Google maps has my location in good resolution. So if you are interested here it is:
R. Santa Rosa, 226-396 – Jardim Alvinópolis, Atibaia – São Paulo, 12943-050, Brazil
I might add that when you come off of the highway the first thing you see is the church. Normally it is a Catholic Church instead. Something that is one of many things that makes this a unique church.
There is little here that will resemble coherent thinking, it is just a bunch of thoughts that are on my mind and I want to share about my time in Brazil.
- I slept horribly on the plane ride but other than that it was the most smooth trip I ever experienced. Hats off to Delta. Getting through customs was beyond easy. Passport stamped and out we went. I kept waiting to be stopped regarding the luggage but that never happened.
- First thoughts of Brazil was the humidity (not bad) so that you could “smell” the air. Second thought was how green it is. Temperature was perfect even though the man escorting us kept apologizing for how cool it was.
- I had a few hours before I taught the first class so I tried to get some work done. I was so tired I found myself face down on the keyboard. I gave up and laid down to rest but tried to read my Kindle first. That lasted about 1 minute after I began slapping myself on the head with it as I fell asleep.
- The people here at the seminary and church are incredibly aware of us and desire to serve us. Very different from Cameroon. I cannot eat a lot of carbs and they are happy to help and keep rejecting my offer to help pay the costs. I have decided to shut up and just be thankful.
- The first day of teaching went very well. Gave the most boring part of the class right up front dealing with higher textual criticism. They were engaged with me and asked the right kind of questions. My interpreter, Alberto, is very good and I had to thank him repeatedly as he sought to make complex English thoughts clear in Portuguese.
- I was able to teach on the nature of written text and the various philosophies connected to it. Some of my key points was that we need to understand that there is a meaning in the text. That meaning is the author’s. It is knowable and it is our job to find it and teach it. I emphasized that pastors are servants to the text and never the other way around. Arrogance will cause a person to seek to assert his meaning and purposes into a text.
- I used a few texts just to help them understand the value of knowing genre as well. We talked about Joseph in Genesis and how the meaning of the story of Joseph is found in 50:20. Then we considered how parallelisms work in Psalms by looking at and how it is usually treated (wrongly) versus a proper approach. Then we ended with a quick survey through to show how these seemingly distinct events of healing in vss 2-16 are all illustrations of the main point in vs 17—Jesus is the Messiah prophesied of in the Old Testament. All of this designed to help them realize that there is a meaning in the text and it is their job to work until they know it.
- We have a little Black and Decker coffee maker in our apartment. Stupid thing can’t pour coffee into the mug without half of it dribbling down the side onto the floor. End result is that I won’t buy one of their makers ever. Philemon is coffee-making challenged as well. But I will not tell of his problems, he can start his own blog if he desires.
- We went to a supermarket here and I am determined to introduce Philemon to frying cheese tomorrow. He is already choosing to not like it, but I shall overcome.
That sums up what I have time for. I am now working on my exam and trying to get a small nap in before I go and teach.