Visitors to the pastor’s study at LPC have sometimes wondered about the double doors on the wall just above the credenza. For good reason. It’s an odd place for a set of doors. One might assume the pastor’s wet bar or big screen TV are hidden behind the doors. “Oh,” I said when they opened the doors ten years ago on my first tour of LPC as candidate for pastor.
It was winter when I settled into the pastor’s study, and other than missing some wall space to hang pictures and plaques, I did not much think about the oddly placed double doors above the credenza in my new office. But then summer came and with it Philadelphia heat and humidity and the thermostat in the office set the air conditioning to humming. Well, more than humming. A mild roar, the sound of the approaching apocalypse, was more like it.
Behind the double doors above the credenza in the pastor’s study at LPC is the air handling equipment for the office AC. Clunk, boom, roar, became the rhythm of my summer days until the Trustees were kind enough to glue some acoustical foam to the back side of those double doors over the credenza in my new office. Continue reading
Today is our team’s last day in Brazil. By 8:00 p.m. We should be on the first of three legs of our our long trip home – Belo Horizonte to Campinas/São Paulo to Fort Lauderdale to Newark.
The team’s goal has been to listen and learn, engage and encourage. We have come along side and often followed our Brazilian brothers and sisters, working, praying, singing, laughing, and growing together. We have learned and listened, engaged and encouraged, and have been encouraged.
Goodbyes are often difficult and it seems no more so than from Brazil. They’ve already begun. Jake and João Vitor embracing one last time as we left the church yesterday – new friends and brothers in Christ. Becky and our long time friends Odias and Nilda assuring one another “Próxima vez” – next time, knowing that, if God wills, there is sure to be a next time.
What has our team accomplished? We have listened and learned, engaged and encouraged. Already the good fruit of this trip can be tasted in the joy of friendship and common faith shared between our team members and so many at IPJA. The kingdom good from this trip may never be known or known mostly próxima vez or próxima vez after that. It will be known in the life of an American team member changed forever, and some will be. It will be known when a young Brazilian who has experienced God’s encouragement in a new friendship begins to dream some dreams he or she might not have otherwise dreamed. It will be known in the life of a child from EBF who has quietly decided to follow the Lord of Love she or he heard about in during those three full days at the church just the hill from the favela.
So we are headed home. Exhausted, changed forever, committed to new friendships and to encouraging those who live and share faith in Jardim America and Favela da Ventosa. It has been that kind of trip. Just what we prayed and hoped for.
Yesterday was the first full day for the full team on the ground in Brazil. The work has begun! So what did we do? We had a picnic. It may be the most important day of the trip. God’s call to the team is to listen and learn, encourage and engage. A picnic is a good way to answer the call.
Today we begin the work of EBF, Vacation Bible School. By Saturday afternoon we may have reached over 300 kids from the favela. But the work of EBF work is side by side work, following our leaders work. It is work to be done by friends in the family of Christ. So as we hiked and sang and talked ate, played a little American baseball and Brazilian Corta Três, seeds of friendship were planted. The work at EBF and, who knows, for years to come, is the work that only friends are able to accomplish.
Listen and learn, encourage and engage. Pray for the bonds of friendship to grow strong as we work together.
IPJA members practicing for next Monday’s match against LPC’s best
Becky and I have been in Brazil for five days now while the rest of the team has been on the ground for just a couple of hours – still one flight away from Belo Horizonte, as they await a noontime flight from São Paulo. It turns out that they did make any of their scheduled three flights – you can ask about the trip across New York from Newark International to JFK or how they ended up in São Paulo instead of Recife. In fact, they will arrive here just a couple of hours behind schedule, and we can hardly wait to see them all.
I don’t want to assign cosmic significance to flight delays, mixed connections, or rebookings. But I am more than willing to thank God for Brian Jennings good leadership of the team on their great adventure and for the great spirit on the team as Brian has reported it in our text messages over the past many hours. Maybe more than a theological account of providence, our team’s trip might be a parable of grace and sovereignty. Not a single flight on our carefully made reservation was ever used, but God’s purpose is being fully accomplished – his destination achieved in his time.
As we continue into the week, I pray that each of us on the team remembers the Parable of the Great Flying Adventure. I pray that we will be willing to lay aside our carefully made plans, our ideas of how things should go, and be open to the amazing, and better, things God has in store for us.
Now off to the airport in an hour or so. I can hardly wait to greet the team.
Our Brazil Mission Team leaves for South America on Monday, July 17, still ten days away. As they travel, the team members will be under the able leadership of Brian Jennings, since Becky and I won’t be with them on their flight. We will be in Brazil awaiting their arrival. Becky and I are leaving for Brazil this coming Wednesday and will make a stop in a small city north of São Paulo before taking a short flight to Belo Horizonte to be in town in time to greet the rest of the team as they arrive for the week of mission and ministry; learning, encouraging, and engaging.
For four days we will be in Hortolândia enjoying an amazing friendship with Renato and Karem. We first met Renato in 2004 and Karem a year later. Renato, then a young Presbyterian elder, along with his pastor and another elder, had made a nine hour overnight car trip from Hortolândia to Belo Horizonte for a two hour meeting where we would discuss congregation to congregation mission partnerships. They were hoping I might be able to do some matchmaking between their church and a church in the United States. Continue reading