September 14, 2009

I read last week’s report and thought, “I really have to cut this down. I’m getting out of hand with these up dates.” You all know that I’m really not a big talker, right? Anyway, it’s time for another one of those: “this is what happened” reports.
I was reminded yesterday that God preserves us sometimes when we act very stupidly. Inacia and Lori have been washing all our clothes by hand since we arrived. I would feel guilty every time I put my pants in the laundry. I found myself wearing underwear longer than I should. I saw what was involved and felt so bad. Not so bad that I helped her, but bad enough to finally buy her a washing machine. The laundry room is made up of a sink and marble counter suspended off the floor, following the back wall, and attached to a wall at each end. The machine came on Friday so I decided Saturday would be a good install day. I was so anxious to get it in place, that I went to work first thing in the morning without dressing properly for the job. I got out my skill saw with the diamond blade, and began cutting out a section of marble, 27″x 24″, to slide the machine in. I made both cuts as far as possible with the saw, but those of you who know, realize that it leaves you a good 3″ from the back wall. To finish the cut, all I had was my sawzall with several metal blades, and so I began to tackle it with those. I got one side cut to the back wall and went to work the other. I must have been leaning on the top as I was cutting because in a split second, the whole piece broke off and fell to the floor, smashing into a million pieces. I looked down at my bare feet and quickly counted all my toes. One was bleeding, but they were still attached. As I stood there it began to dawn on me what had just happened. God was the only reason I wasn’t collecting my bloody toes in a jar and getting rushed to the hospital. Those of you who know how heavy granite or marble is, know that it’s only God’s kindness that I’m still walking around with just a scratch. A moment of absolute stupidity could have left me handicapped and useless to do the work I’ve been called here to do.
The kids started school this week, so all our days are now cut in half. They start at 8:30 am and we finish at 12:00 pm. I decided to sit in on their first class with Lori and realised that I needed this as much as they did. I really did poorly in school with no interest in learning. My real education began after Dad died and I was forced to take over the business. At 12:00 we have lunch and then head off to do whatever is planned for the day. Monday, I finished the food pantry in Aningas, so it’s ready now to be stocked. Tuesday, we went into the city to buy school supplies for the kids, and to make a car payment on our rental. Wed., we picked up some more stock that I needed and went into Aningas just to check up on everyone and see how they all were doing. Thurs., we were off to feed the street people, and three more stops got added to our route. I realise now how easy it would be, almost natural, to keep these souls at arms’ length, because of how fast you get sucked into their lives of problems when you show them you care. Very quickly, you can become consumed and overwhelmed, wanting so bad to help and feeling so helpless. There’s a vacant lot in the city, that was a part of our route ,where a whole family lived. We would often shop especially for them and bring them a bag of food. We arrived with a bag full of sandwiches, along with rice and beans that they had requested, just to find them all gone. One young man about 19 was still there, and he told us that Sat. night, into Sun. morning, while sleeping, they were attacked, beaten up; and whatever they had of value was stolen. So, the family left to go find another street corner that they could make their home. We asked about another young man, who last week we bought meds for; he was also missing. When we asked we found out that he was in jail. He was so hungry the other night that he chanced stealing some food from the local food store, and was hauled off by the police. I had to leave this meeting to help Caroline find a bathroom. I returned to see that Lori was still deep in conversation. She had her hand on a young man who stood listening with his head hung. She was speaking to him with tears in her eyes, which is my cue to get back and involved in the conversation. She looked at me as I walked up and said, “I don’t know what to do. He’s begging us to get him out of here, He wants to get clean, but rehabs. here cost money. He’s telling me of a Christian rehab. south of the city that cost about $200 a month. We’re his only hope and he’s begging us to help him. Drugs are his escape and without help he’ll wind up in jail or, most likely, dead, and he knows it.” How can you hand the kid a sandwich and walk away, when you know that there is more you can do? Every day we pray that God will lead us where He wants us to go, so we must believe that each person, whose path we cross, has been hand picked by God as one we need to help. This makes all our decisions very simple. Believe and Obey. So, we promised to go back on Monday to pick him up and go find out about this place of rehab.. I guess our only concern is that, while there, he’ll hear a clear Gospel and not get any bad teaching. Please pray for him; his name is Jose Mateus, nicknamed “Bruno”.
Maria is another young girl we have gotten to know. Every time we were with her in the past, she was wearing this plastic, baggy, cape like thing. Thurs. was really hot so when we found her, she was sitting on a wall in shorts and a kinda of halter top. She saw us pull up and stood to come over to the car. As soon as she stood, we realised she is pregnant. Six months pregnant in fact, and about to bring a child into the world with little or no hope of healthy life. She hadn’t seen a doctor yet, and none of the typical medical things had been taken care of. Why? Because she didn’t have any money for the bus. We gave her bus money so she could go get her ultrasound and check-up. We left her, knowing that we will have to keep an eye on her, as well. Please pray for Maria and the unborn baby.
Next, we came across a young fellow who was limping down the street. I called to him and he came over to the car window for some food. He was on my side and I could see while he ate that he had lost all his front teeth. He told us when asked that he was fourteen and held out his open palm to show us three coins he had successfully begged that day. I knew he was showing us with hopes that we would contribute to his fund, which, in time, would allow him to buy some antiseptic and bandages. When asked why, he held up his right foot to show us a raw open sore along the side, full of dirt and still bleeding. Lori asked him where the closest drug store was and found out it was just around the corner. She got out and the two of them went to buy what he needed, to at least clean and wrap his foot. Time and again, we have to keep telling ourselves that we can’t fix all the problems in Natal. We’ve come to help, as guided by God, with the hope that the work opens, first their ears, and then their hearts, to God’s Gospel. Please pray that God Himself directs the steps we take each day.
Last year I had made new tables and benches for the school in Aningas, so the kids could have a lunch area. Well, by the looks of them, I have to believe that since we left they’ve been sitting in a pool of water. I know the school has leaks everywhere, but I was still not pleased to see all the legs delaminating, to the point where they can no longer be used. So, Friday Will and I went to the village, with the intention of cutting off the bad plywood and replacing the leg bottoms with solid stock and setting them up on plastic pads. It’s so much easier to build new then to fix damaged stuff, but we got started and at least got one completed.
Lori’s been helping a young woman in her thirties get medical help for a medical condition in her eyes. She was told by the doctor that many here have this problem because of the strong sun and lack of eye protection. The way it works with the public health is that you show up, get in line, and wait. You may be seen, you may not be seen; when time is up, they close the doors and you will just have to come again another day. So Lori was up at five on Friday morning and had the girl at the clinic by seven. There were already fifteen people ahead of her but they did get seen by the doctor. So, that process has begun and it’s one more thing that Lori will have to see through.
Well, Family those are the note worthy experiences of the week, and once again I was unsuccessful in cutting this down. I feel like Mr Obama with his one hour speech on how to fix your health insurance problems. It’s kinda funny, but as I watched it the other night I had this feeling of being closer to home. There’s something about a live broadcast that makes you realise that what you’re watching is the same thing everyone else, at home, is watching and at the same time, too. That’s the one good thing I was able to get out of Obama’s speech.
Well that’s my missionary report for the week. Good night to most.
NOW! In the words of my dear uncle Fred ( who will always hold a very dear place in my heart and who I will never forget): Those of you with small children who need to be in bed, and those who need to be up early for school or work tomorrow, are free to leave the meeting at this juncture. Have you ever seen anyone actually get up and leave?) Those who can stay would be greatly appreciated, our brother has a short word of devotion he would like to share with us now. Ha! ha!
I’ve been reading in Exodus and thinking about that great moment in the history of God’s people when He brought them out of Egypt, and did it in a way they could never forget.
As a result, God expected to be given that place of honor in their hearts; that place where there’s only room for one. He knew what humanity’s estimation of Him would be. He himself determined it at the foot of Mount Sinai. When giving Moses specific instructions so he could judge fairly and rule His people, God told him that the value of a slave was thirty pieces of silver. Imagine giving that information to Moses knowing that a day would come when humanity would use that very value of a slave to show God what they thought of His only begotten ( only one of its kind ) Son. That’s how the world would respond to God’s mercy and grace but He expected more from His chosen.
( Exodus 19:3-36) “You have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to me. If you will listen obediently to what I say and keep my covenant, out of all people you’ll be my special treasure. The whole earth is mine to chose from, but you’re special, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. In other words, God showed them how special and how precious they were to Him, and the great lengths He went to to call them, and He only asked in return that He would be the only God in their heart. I thought of the countless times that He provided proof of His unique love for them and the special place they held in His heart. He only asked that the feeling would be mutual. He wasn’t asking for a place that He hadn’t earned. He asked them to remember their thirst and the bitter waters of Marah; to remember how He stepped in to make those waters sweet; to remember in Rephidim when Moses acting under His instructions would strike the rock of Horeb, water gushed out to once again quench their thirst; to remember that great battle with Amalek, He knew the day would come when the memory of Amalek would be wiped off the face of the earth. But He instructed Joshua to document that victory as evidence of their God’s power. He told them to carry that proof with them and to never forget. And that jar they carried, did they know what that’s all about? See that white stuff preserved all these years? That’s God given food from heaven provided by a Father who will always meet the need of the children He loves and cares for so much. On and on the list would go, as God would give evidence to His people that He had earned that preeminent place of honor and worship in their hearts. Pass the stories on, tell your children, don’t let the generations forget the great things I did, for a people that were so special to me. Oh, there were times when they were quick to give Him that first place. They stood in reverent awe and Godly fear at the banks of the Red Sea. They watched the waves spit up those powerful Egyptian warriors, as if they were helpless driftwood rolling up on the beach. They would say from their hearts, (ch 15-8): God is my strength ( His presence in the cloud before me, leading me through the walled waters of this great sea); God is my song ( the occupation of my heart in worship); God is my salvation (His presence in the cloud behind, that stood between His loved ones and their Egyptian enemies.) This is the kind of God I have, and I’m telling the world.
(15:10-15). Who compares with you among gods, O God? Who compares with you in power, in holy majesty, in awesome praise, wonder working God?Salvation and strength, they had seen both that day. It had produced a song of worship as they stood on the river bank in reverent awe of their God, who had chosen them, out of the whole world that belonged to Him. Was He asking too much of them when He declared, (20:3) No other Gods, only me. ?
God declared that they should have: (20:4-6) No carved gods of any size, shape or form, ( helpless man made idols); or anything whatsoever, whether things that fly, things that walk, or things that swim. (making creation your idol rather than the creator ); don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them, because I am God your God, and I am a most jealous God. I am unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
God did so much for them, only asking for one thing in return. Israel only failed at one thing, but it was the only thing that mattered to God. He left them captives to Babylon, He turned a deaf ear to their cry, His heart was broken. What a disappointment, what a failure; they were no longer effective as God’s representation to lost humanity. He had never failed to come through for them. Constantly, in very tangible ways, He showed them He cared, protected them, gave them the best, made them a people that the nations of the world feared. How could they allow this God to be displaced? What could possibly have deserved that place of worship in their heart more than this God?
This is my burden. I believe God has given it to me. These things were written for our learning. God has seen fit to document these stories so that we learn from others’ failures and don’t make the same mistakes.
Make a list of all of our concerns at home: weak assemblies; young people leaving our assemblies; a lack of seeing God’s power among us; lack of great blessing in salvation; our lack of interest in God’s things; our feeling of staleness, coldness, lack of life; and our closing of platforms because we think that will ultimately solve the problem of poorly attended conferences.The list seems to be growing every day. I’ve watched well meaning men run around doing their best to address each problem. The frantic running from issue to issue to plug the holes of what seems to be a sinking ship has to stop. We can’t fix it, only God can. We need to look to Him for help.
God told Samuel to tell the people what He expected of them if they truly wanted Him back:
1. Clean house ( get rid of all your idols)
2. Put God back on the throne of your heart ( that place where there is only room for one)
3. Promise Him undying devotion and loyalty.
I would like all who are reading this to give thought to this verse. ( Exodus 20:22-26) DON’T MAKE gods OF SILVER AND GOLD AND SIT THEM ALONGSIDE ME.
Now my question to you and me: Have we asked a jealous God to share His seat with things that we also think deserve a place of prominence? There’s only room for one. We defend ourselves by saying that God is very much a part of our lives, but have we heeded the God given warnings? Or have we created a God of convenience? Are we are paying the price because of this? After all God did for us, and we all gave great thought to that today, is He asking too much to be number one in our heart. The moment we agree with Gods assessment and confess our sin, He will forgive us and we will see His great power among us again.
I don’t know how many are receiving this email. It started with just my family, but I heard it’s being forwarded to others. Some of you who may not know me very well, may read this and find it hard to take. This has become my great burden for our assemblies. Those of you who know me know about this burden because you’ve heard this all before. I would only ask of others that, before God, you give it prayerful thought. Ask God, from your heart, to show you if there’s any basis to the message. Is this really the sin that has caused what feels like a dormant God among us?
Though I may not know you please know that I pray for God’s people and I love you all in Christ.
Good night from Brazil.

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