"Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." Saint Francis of Assisi

Monday, January 31, 2011

Fernando Cavenaghi

Hey Bronwyn, here's our new atacante. Don't give up on the video. Sometimes it loads up fast and sometimes it takes forever but it's worth the wait. My favorite goals are at the one minute mark and the last goal where he just jacks 3-4 guys.

He's from Argentina and he used to play with D'Alessandro at River Plate.

And your little brothers are completely pumped.

We hope to see him in person this week.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Have you ever noticed how God links together certain things at certain times? Not big deals by themselves but in the context of them happening together it makes you kind of sit back and take notice. This past week was one of those weeks where we saw Him bring a couple of simple things together in a cool way.

We get weekly emails/devotionals from Max Lucado. Two days after the funeral and birthday party we went to last week, and one day after we posted with the "Life and Death" post, we received the devotional that I've pasted below. It's entitled "When Death Becomes Birth." I would encourage you to read it.

After I read it I asked my girlfriend if she had read it. She had. It encouraged us both. As we spoke about it she asked if I saw which book of Lucado's it came from. I had not even noticed what God connected until she told me.

This devotional came from his book called Come Thirsty.

The day of Sergio's birthday party my girlfriend went to the mall with Cam (another missionary here in POA). I asked if she would go to a book store and find Sergio a good, encouraging Christian book to read. He's been reading different books lately and we thought he would like another one.

The book she chose? Come Thirsty by Max Lucado.

We liked how God tied in those things for us to see especially as Sergio comes up on the one year anniversary of the death of his father.

I think sometimes we look for God mainly through the "BIG" things. Please God, heal this person from cancer.......Take away this financial burden.......Please give me that job. We love to see more miracles. I do believe in miracles and I believe our general lack of faith keeps us from seeing more of them, but at the same time, I heard Chuck Swindoll say one time that if miracles happened so often and were a regular part of our days then they would be called "regulars."

We have to learn to sit up and take notice in all the things God is doing. In the big and small things because He's in them all.

We were blessed to see Him how He tied some things together last week in a very cool way.

Here is the devotional.

When Death Becomes Birth

by Max Lucado

You, as all God’s children, live one final breath from your own funeral. Which, from God’s perspective, is nothing to grieve. He responds to these grave facts with this great news: “The day you die is better than the day you are born” (Eccles. 7:1). Now there is a twist. Heaven enjoys a maternity-ward reaction to funerals. Angels watch body burials the same way grandparents monitor delivery-room doors. “He’ll be coming through any minute!” They can’t wait to see the new arrival. While we’re driving hearses and wearing black, they’re hanging pink and blue streamers and passing out cigars. We don’t grieve when babies enter the world. The hosts of heaven don’t weep when we leave it.

Oh, but many of us weep at the thought of death. Do you? Do you dread your death?

Is your fear of dying robbing your joy of living? Jesus came to “deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Heb. 2:15).

If Scripture boasted a list of the famous dead, Lazarus would be near the top. He lived in Bethany, a sleepy hamlet that sat a short walk from Jerusalem. Jesus spent a lot of time there. Maybe he liked the kitchen of Martha or the devotion of Mary. One thing is for sure: he considered Lazarus a friend. News of Lazarus’s death prompts Jesus to say, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up” (John 11:11).

And now, four days after the funeral, Jesus has come calling. Literally calling, “Lazarus, come out!” Can we try to picture Lazarus as he hears those words? Heaven-sent Lazarus. Heaven-happy Lazarus. Four days into his measureless days. By now he’s forming fast friendships with other saints. King David shows him the harps. Moses invites him over for tea and manna. Elijah and Elisha take him for a spin in the fiery chariot. Daniel has promised him a lion of a Bible story. He’s on his way to hear it when a voice booms through the celestial city.

“Lazarus, come out!”

Everybody knows that voice. No one wonders, Who was that? Angels stop. Hosts of holy-city dwellers turn toward the boy from Bethany, and someone says, “Looks like you’re going back for another tour of duty.”

Lazarus doesn’t question the call. Perfect understanding comes with a heavenly passport. He doesn’t object. But had he done so, who could have faulted him? His heavenly body knows no fever. His future no fear. He indwells a city that is void of padlocks, prisons, and Prozac. With sin and death nonexistent, preachers, doctors, and lawyers are free to worship. Would anyone blame Lazarus for saying, “Do I have to go back?”

But he doesn’t second-guess the command. Nor does anyone else. Return trips have been frequent of late. The daughter of the synagogue ruler. The boy from Nain. Now Lazarus from Bethany. Lazarus turns toward the rarely used exit door. The very one, I suppose, Jesus used some thirty earth years earlier. With a wave and within a wink, he’s reunited with his body and waking up on a cold slab in a wall-hewn grave. The rock to the entrance has been moved, and Lazarus attempts to do the same. Mummy-wrapped, he stiffly sits up and walks out of the tomb with the grace of Frankenstein’s monster.

People stare and wonder.

We read and may ask, “Why did Jesus let him die only to call him back?”

To show who runs the show. To trump the cemetery card. To display the unsquashable strength of the One who danced the Watusi on the neck of the devil, who stood face to clammy face with death and declared, “You call that a dead end? I call it an escalator.”

“Lazarus, come out!”

Those words, incidentally, were only a warmup for the big day. He’s preparing a worldwide grave evacuation. “Joe, come out!” “Maria, come out!” “Giuseppe, come out!” “Jacob, come out!” Grave after grave will empty. What happened to Lazarus will happen to us. Only our spirit-body reunion will occur in heaven, not Bethany Memorial Cemetery.

When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
(1 Cor. 15:54–55)

With Christ as your friend and heaven as your home, the day of death becomes sweeter than the day of birth.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Blogging Again......Kind of

If you haven't noticed, I've been in kind of a blog rut lately.

As always there is plenty of stuff in our house, our city and our house church family to write about but, to be honest, I just haven't wanted to blog.  No motivation to actually sit down and share.  I'm kind of burned out.

However, I have a daughter in the states and a wife who are telling me it's time to start blogging again. I also appreciate the friends who have shared that they miss our blogs and those that have sent us notes asking where we are or if something has happened since we haven't blogged much. The encouragement has helped to kind of kick start me back into the blogging world.

I don't know if I'll blog as much as I have in the past. In a couple of weeks the ideas may just come flying like they did before, maybe not. Who knows? I honestly don't know how many of you care. It's okay if you don't. I'm not sharing for any other reason than to explain the sporadic blogging lately.

The good thing about being in a rut like this is you can mooch off of lots of other sites.

I'd like to start the mooching today.

My girlfriend did a blog today that you need to read.

If you've ever wondered what we do here in Porto Alegre or why we do it then you need to click here and read her post. You will be blessed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Life and Death

Yesterday was an interesting day for our family.

We were invited to a birthday churrasco (bar-b-que) for one of our best friends.

Yesterday Sergio celebrated his 53 birthday. His birthday was actually on Tuesday but we had the party yesterday.

Anyway, Sergio was, literally, one of the first people we met here.

We moved here in June of 2002 and we met him in the same month or in the first few days of July.

He is a real estate agent. When we moved here he had his own company. He helped us find our first place to live. It was an apartment and it was close to his office.  We moved in towards the end of July. About a year and a half later he then negotiated the deal on the second place we lived. It was a house and he got no commission from the rental agreement. We then had a fight with him about accepting money from us as a "thank you" for his hard work. We only felt it was right to help him since he helped us. We wanted to give him a commission that he didn't get from the actual deal. The fight came from his not wanting to accept it because he wanted to help his friends and friends don't charge for friendship.  That's the way he is in everything he does. Friends are more important than money.

Sergio quickly became more than our real estate agent. He and his family became our great friends.

He has two sons that are Garrett and Carys' age.

Our families have vacationed together at the beach. Our families have taken a few trips together to the mountains.

He's also my running buddy. He was with me every step of the way when I tried (and failed) to complete my first marathon in 2005. When I ran he ran. When I had to walk he stopped and walked with me. He called my wife when I had to stop and couldn't take another step. He told her where to pick up my tired, defeated body. He got me some water, asked if I was okay and then proceeded to finish the marathon. Because of going so slow with me he, literally, was the last person to finish the race. He arrived with an ambulance following him with sirens blaring signifying the last runner of the race. The streets lined up with fans cheering him on. If it were me, my stupid pride would have wanted to explain why I was last. He never said a word about it being because he was helping me. Never. He just smiled and waved to everyone and soaked in the moment. That's Sergio. He has taught me that the important thing is to finish the race and to run with joy.

Sergio and his family have been regular Bible study partners with us.

I've been blessed to study with Sergio one on one and literally see the "light bulb moment" when he realized that He doesn't have to be "good enough" to be accepted by Christ. That Christ can forgive everything in his past. Just days after having this moment I was blessed to be asked by Sergio to be a part of his demonstration of his new faith through baptism.

Sergio has a deep bond with my parents. Especially my dad. I can't spend 2 minutes with him without him asking about my parents.

I consider him to be one of my best Brasilian friends.

It's always fun to be with Sergio. He has an infectious laugh. Everyone enjoys being around him and I would swear that he knows everybody in POA. Whenever we are out together he always runs into someone he knows. Always.

Last night was a great celebration of his life. We had a great time, as usual, with his family and friends.

A few hours before we left for the birthday party Benay got a phone call. It was the mother of one of Carys' friends from her old school. As I listened to Benay talk I immediately knew someone had died.

She hung up and told me our friend Lourdes had died.

We first met Duncan and Lourdes in 2002.

Our three year old daughters, at that time, (Carys and Andréa) went to the same school together. They immediately became good friends.

Duncan and Lourdes were very helpful to us as we adjusted to living in Brasil.

Duncan had lived in the United States and it was always very helpful to us, initially, to have someone who could speak and understand English as we struggled with the difficulty of learning the Portuguese language.

They were one of the first families we invited to our house for supper in our new apartment.

Lourdes was always smiling. She was always happy. I know people aren't "always" happy but I never saw her without a smile. Even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As she fought the cancer she was smiling, she was encouraging.

I can remember her coming to Benay's baby shower for Giovanni. Benay wanted to talk with her about how she was doing. She never wanted to talk about her problems or her suffering because she didn't want to discourage other people. She would always smile and say she was doing fine.

Carys and Andréa went to the same school together from 2002 through the 2009 school year. Last year Carys started a new school so we didn't get to see Duncan and Lourdes on a daily basis like we were used to.

Benay went to visit her last year and took her a book (Max Lucado). A couple of months ago Benay tried to get in touch with her but wasn't able to. That was the last time we tried to get in touch with her or her family.

Until yesterday.

In Brasil we don't embalm a body so the burial is within 24 hours.

Lourdes died yesterday morning and the funeral, like I mentioned, was last night.

Benay, Carys and I went to be with the family.

Duncan seemed to be, like I would be at that moment, in a daze. With terminal cancer you know the end is coming and, I imagine, you can prepare for it the best you can but, honestly, how can you ever prepare to live your life without your spouse?

I watched him as I thought about what that might feel like to have just lost Benay. He held up okay until he hugged Benay. As she whispered in his ear he began to cry.

As we left Benay and I talked about the will of God.

It's a strange thing at times (to us humans) and not always possible to understand.

Lourdes also has two kids. A girl and a boy. The girl, as I mentioned, is Carys' age. The boy, Rafael, is Garrett's age and they had class together one year. He also has cerebral palsy and has many developmental problems.  When we saw him last night he gave us hugs and then he gave us nuggies on our head.

As we left the funeral we talked about how blessed we are. We have 6 healthy kids. Benay and I are healthy and we just left the funeral of a woman our age who died after fighting cancer for many years. She leaves a husband and two kids, one of which has special needs.

It's times like that when we realize just how blessed we are and how the things that worry us at times are really not big things at all.

We left the funeral and went back to Sergio's birthday party.

When he saw me he came up to me and put an arm around me and asked how I was doing. I said fine and just kind of shrugged my shoulders. He told me "É pesada......É pesada." Which means, in this case, "Going to a funeral is a heavy thing."  February 5 will be the one year anniversary of his father's death. He gave me a hug and encouraged me.

We then had a birthday cake and Sergio shared with everyone how blessed he was to have such a good family, good friends and such a good, blessed life. He shared how this was his first birthday without his dad.

As we were driving home after the party I spent some time reflecting on our time here. Who God has brought into our lives and who He has taken. This wasn't the first funeral we've gone to since we've been here and it probably won't be the last.

I thought about how this celebration and this funeral happened on the same day. How yesterday involved two families that helped us so much when we first moved here. How our kids became good friends. How we've shared meals together and how they, personally, shared the day together.

One celebrating and the other suffering.

Life and death on the same day. Sergio and Duncan's life will be forever intertwined. This day will always bring back memories to both of them until the day they die.

We feel blessed and thank God for these two families.

Please pray for Sergio as he continues to be a light for Jesus to his family, friends and to this city.

And please pray for Duncan and his kids as they begin to try to live life without their mom, wife, best friend. I can't imagine what life would be like without my girlfriend. Only God can strengthen Duncan in this moment.

I believe they both will feel encouragement through your prayers.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Goodbye.....For Now

Yesterday these guys got on a plane to move to the United States.
It's our teammate Matt and his wife Waleska.

Matt was on the plane with us when we moved here in June of 2002. We were teammates with him here in Porto Alegre longer than we were with any other American.

He holds a special place in our hearts. It's really hard for me to try to describe what this guy means to me and what God has done between us but I tried on a past post. You can click here if you'd like to read it. 

Waleska became Matt's wife after he moved here. She is a Brasilian and has been a huge blessing to Matt as well as to Benay, myself and our entire church family.

They came over this past Monday night to say their goodbyes and to eat a meal with us. We weren't able to see them off at the airport because we were out of town.

We can't tell you how much we will miss them here but we know it's time for them to go. God has told them so and they have peace about moving to the states. The same peace God gave Matt when He asked him to move here He now gives both of them as He asks them to move back to the states.

We ask that you pray for Matt and Waleska as they deal with living in the states. It will be a tough adjustment for both of them.

We can't tell you how blessed we were to spend so much time together with these guys in Brasil. The kingdom has grown so much here on earth because of them.

We had a going away party for them a couple of weeks ago and they were blown away by how many people showed up. It didn't surprise us. So many people love them because Matt and Waleska really live Christ.

Kingdom first. That's how they live. And that's why people want to be around them. They aren't proud but humble. They aren't loud but boldly show Christ by the way they live. People are naturally attracted to them because of what the Spirit does in their lives.

We know they will make a kingdom difference wherever they live in the states.

Here is one of our favorite pictures of Matt and Waleska.

Like Benay told João and Clarice when they left us last month, "Even if we never see you again here on earth we know we are going to spend eternity with you."

That's what we know about Matt and Waleska. They plan on making frequent visits to POA and to their church family in the future but even if we never see them again here on this earth it's okay. Because we know we'll get to hang out with them for eternity. And that's a comforting thought in the days to come when we miss our brother and sister.