First things first: It is great to be home. It is great to be home in all those usual ways of your own bed and your own language, but especially great to be home to your own church family. I am looking forward to seeing you Sunday – and remember: Fall worship schedule @ 8:30, 9:45 and 11:30.
Yes, Becky, Marcos Ortega and I are home from a ten-day trip to Brazil. In her minute for mission before we left, Becky told you that we would be visiting three churches in two cities for one purpose. We went as your eyes and ears on a journey of discernment. Our task is to report back to the Mission Committee what we saw and heard on this journey of discovery; as I told the congregation at Primeira Igreja Presbiteriana in Cachoiero de Itapemirim (by the way, Langhorne is as hard for a Brazilian to say as Cachoiero de Itapemirim is for an American to say), we were there to see if we might find a man of Macedonia there among them (Acts 16:9).
The work of discernment has really just begun. We need time to allow the sights and sounds seen and heard with our eyes and ears, our hearts and minds, to begin to sort themselves out. We need to wait for a picture to come into focus and noises to become the distinct words of the song we heard being sung.
Please, when you see us Sunday ask us about the trip – sights, sounds, emotions and experiences. A discernment of if and where and how God might be calling us as a church to share in mission with friends in Brazil will come later.
But I can tell you this: during our time in Jardim América, Buritis and Cachoeiro de Itapemirim each one of us came back to a word that at least described what we were having a hard time describing even in our own hearts and minds. Overwhelmed. Of course, each of the three of us will have our own stories of being overwhelmed. Ask Marcos and Becky about theirs.
Here are some of my random thoughts on being overwhelmed.
I was overwhelmed in Jardim América as Becky and I renewed friendships, many of them now over a dozen years old. Overwhelmed as:
- Junio, just a week out of prison told the whole church about his decision to finally put God first in his life and of his thanks to the whole church for their love and patience. Becky and I have known Junio for half his life.
- Ademar, the young dentist helped through dental school and the first years of practice by dentists in Western PA, held his little baby and told of the difference a mission partnership made in his life.
- Leo, whose baptism it was my privilege to administer and whose wedding it was my honor to officiate, led the people of Igreja Presbiteriana in worship – assisted by Marcos Ortega on guitar.
- Nilcéia, our dearest friend, spoke about the power of faith among friends.
- We sat and talked for two hours non-stop in Portuguese with Elder Toninho, an old friend, and Pastor Michael, a new friend, about God’s work in, through and among the people of the church.
I was overwhelmed in Buritis as we visited with our friends of 22 years, Pastor Robson and Juliane and their three daughters, Priscila, Aline and Vivian and son-in-law Alessandro. We laughed and remembered and dreamed together. It is good when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.
I was overwhelmed in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim as:
- We got to know new friends – Ivan, Nilce, Carol, Katia, Sergio, Cassia, Anderson, Geneas, Elisete and others.
- We visited with the people of Village da Luz, the village of light. The poverty there is dark and of all sorts – material, spiritual, relational and that respecter-of-no-persons poverty of self. But we also saw ways that the Gospel makes a difference bringing riches that are spiritual, relational, personal and, yes, material, but not in an abundance of things so much as a beauty of things.
- We worshiped with the people of the Congregação Presibiteriana de Village da Luz. Two hours of praise and worship – the word preached, four young people baptized and twenty adults received as members, utter chaos in so many ways, but a harmonized symphony of joy in other ways.
I was overwhelmed by God. How is it that the people of Favela da Ventosa and Village da Luz have broken my heart and then filled it with joy? How is it that God has allowed me the privilege of knowing and loving these people? How is it that God has called me to serve a people and a church like LPC, so full of compassion for the whole world? I am overwhelmed by God.
See you Sunday. 8:30, 9:45 and 11:30