Sunday, October 25, 2009

Musings

Amazonian Bugses
Cachueira! (waterfall)

Luis & I
Hammocks! FTW!


Thursday October 22


Well Steve left tonight, so I’m all alone. I’m super glad for his presence and his friendship over the past 3 months. Having someone close to my age that I could talk with encouraged me greatly. We made sure we made more peanut butter (and experimenting with chocolate peanut butter), had a picnic with Sagares, Melissa, & the kids at the waterfall, and getting all the nostalgic brazilian things out of the way. I’ll never forget Steve and I hope to see him next year at the ARC conference.


I've been working on art lately as James has asked me to illustrate his upcoming book. I love art but I've never done anything like this before especially for one of the biggest christian publishing companies in Brazil. I'm doing a small sketch for each of the chapters and the cover. Not being a professional, I'm a little stressed out although my drawings so far have received praise from both James (a very critical person) and my sister Katina who just received her degree in art. This was a huge confidence booster and I think it'll work out with a lot of help from God. I'm so thankful that God is using me here in Brazil for so much more than just physical labour.


We had our last night hanging out with James. The things that come out of his mouth and life never cease to amaze me. There were a ton of different topics that we covered including relationships, finances, community, miracles, and, last and probably least, cheetos and cake.


He told us all about how God provided money for him to go to the Amazon when he was broke before leaving and how he received so much that he was able to bless many people along the way.


He explained the one thing that saved his life and his marriage. That is that no one knows better what they need to be loved than that person. All anyone has to do is ask, “What do I need to do to make you feel loved? How do you need me to love you?” If you’re serious about keeping the relationship, you will do anything and everything that comes out of that person’s mouth. He hasn’t had a significant argument with his wife in over 4 years. Another thing that is necessary in loving people that will change relationships and make them perfect is asking God to give an anointing that allows you to love others as God loves them, as the author of love would love someone. If you do this with all your mind, body, and strength, you may get the same results as James. Both his wife and his daughter told him the same thing separate from each other and that was this, “You are like how I picture Jesus. When I talk to you or am with you I feel as though I’m with him.” Wow... If I got that kind of compliment from anyone I would be set for compliments for life just because I know that I could never match up to Jesus and neither can James match up to him either. But it is God who is working through us. We just have to give him the permission. Out of these principles stemmed many more related philosophies about relationships with God at the center.


I feel like I’m called to bring community and church like the early christian church to Colorado. I want to live fully for Jesus and follow his commands exactly so that I can become a living testimony of his goodness. I want to bless others and explore God’s eternity with others at my side. A community of people who are willing to give to anyone in that community who is in need. An accountable, completely honest community dedicated to seeking God and spreading his love. Who knows. Maybe I hold off on college to help out at church and seek the Lord. Maybe I’ll hold off on college for a long time until god opens the doors because my priorities are different and i don’t want to go to college to ultimately get a day to day job. My priorities are expanding the kingdom and seeking God first. If god wills me to go to college and earn a lot of money to bless others than so be it. Or if God wants me to be an apostle who suffers and is persecuted for the faith, then so be it. How can I argue with the one that shaped me? (Though I'm fairly certain that more education is in my future) I don’t want to spend my life living mediocrely. I want to live it with a passion at whatever I do. I don’t want to spend it listening to the law and rules of man, but of the law and the spirit of God, the only authority. If I can do this faithfully I have no doubt that God will make himself present through his glory.

Sometimes I think the modern day church is missing out on many of God’s miracles and glory because we have secularized christianity. We have our bank accounts and save money for the future (which is not bad), but we rely on them instead of God to fulfill us daily as he promises in the Bible. In America all christians seem anxious about money and our security when God promises that he will provide for us. Now he never said we would be living luxuriously. It would be wrong when others are in need and do not have their basic interests met and sometimes that means a sacrifice on our part (Philipians 2). The lord is a faithful giver to those who choose to put their faith in him and obey. James cannot count the times that he has been struggling for money and miraculously the money came from out of the blue. One time he couldn’t pay a bill and he gave it to God as his problem because God said he would take care of them and the next day either a boy and his father that he had never known before came to his door and gave him 200 reis, or someone wanted to practice generosity and gave him another 200 reis, or more money showed up is his mailbox seemingly from no one. This is all a result of James obedience to God that these things happen. Now I don't think this is God's calling for everyone to live like he does, but everyone else has to realize that the money they have is not theirs, but God's. I was reading in Joshua about the Israelites crossing the Jordan and taking over the cities. God made a covenant with them saying that he would give the cities into the Israelites hands if they didn't take any of the riches for themselves, but rather gave them to God. One man took the riches for himself and Israel could not take city. One man, because of his greed, caused the Lord to turn his back on an entire nation of his followers allowing some of them to be killed. Once Joshua found out, he killed the man and burned the riches he stole, for they never were his. After this the Israelites were able to take the city using a strategy that fooled Ai into thinking that the Israelites were fleeing, like the last time, but really had an ambush waiting for them. So the disobedience of one person, taking money for himself and not realizing it is God's, can ruin God's perfect plan, though God uses the mistakes for his plan.

I don’t care if the living is hard financially, because I know God will take care of his followers. Though James can’t afford to build his house to give his children separate rooms, he still lives a fulfilled life full of adventure and has complete trust in God that he will provide. And if that wasn’t enough, we still have rewards in heaven. If we have an eternal perspective, our problems right now seem like a speck compared to a mountain of God’s glory. The speck will be forgotten. So what if we suffer a little right now. It will be completely worth it in eternity. I couldn’t be more sure of what I write right now and I can’t wait to try it out. actually i already have. My dad gave me 500 extra dollars into my bank account this month. i didn’t need all the money to pay sagares for my part of the month and I made sure I had enough for myself. I had excess but I knew he was in need so I gave a little extra to help out and he was blessed! He had prayed the night before that God would send some money. I didn’t necessarily feel called to give money to Sagares. The early christians gave freely because Jesus said to freely give. We don’t need to feel led to give to those in need. If we have extra, our natural instinct as part of our survival instinct as humans is to horde it for later. But when we go against our nature to do good in Jesus name, we prove God’s goodness and glory by his love through us.


All this revelation is an answer to many prayers. I know I am new to this kind of living and maybe my views are a little naive, so please forgive me if I seem inexperienced because I am. None-the-less, I have never felt more sure of my God and what he is capable of before in my life than I do now. Thank you.


P.S. Just letting you all know that I will be traveling for the next two weeks, more or less, with James to Uberlandia (coolest name for a city ever) and Macapa. He will be ministering and I have the privilege of playing drums with him. Prayers are welcome because the roads are infamously dangerous on the way and where I will be going in Macapa is right on the equator so the heat will be more intense than in the Amazon.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Amazonas!!!






Hey. So the last week before Amazon was great. Steve & I did many things we were always meaning to do since he leaves 5 days after we get back from the Amazon. We finally went to the tower. We could see the entire city of BH. The view is a little overrated but still it was fun to be with friends. Oh yeah, and I made beans and rice for the first time... correctly! I absolutely love beans and rice. I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life, like many people in the world do. A book by a guy named Bart Stamper found its way into my hands. It’s a personal testimony about his experience in Vietnam. The difference between his account and every other Vietnam account is that he is completely explicit. Other Vietnam veterans won’t tell much of their story because it’s too painful and they don’t have a sound mind. Their emotions and morals were so distorted by the war that maybe they can’t forgive themselves. This book couldn’t be sold in the U.S. as a war novel and a Christian novel with both parts - only as separate pieces.


More importantly than any of this, I’m in the Amazon right now! I stepped foot outside of the airport I felt the “Dragon’s Breath” on my face. The scorching heat wasn’t unbearable ... at first. We stopped at a restaurant and we had tapioca with cheese and delicious juices native only to the Amazon: cupuaçu and cajú. I arrived at the JOCUM base (YWAM).


So much has happened since my last entry. Steve arrived at YWAM and we checked out the boat. It has 3 floors excluding the hull. It was so hot. I was perspiring just sitting down and eating. We got picked up to go to a church by one of James’ friends. James did some worship, Tom spoke, then Judson led worship for a bit. God started speaking to me. Family is your first ministry. How can one preach the gospel to a crowd or another person if his family is in disarray? The body of Christ is essentially a family. If we can’t love our family, we don’t have the practice to love anyone else. I realized that before this trip and until that moment on the roof, I had been a man of little faith. I heard but did not hear. I saw but did not see. I didn’t fully believe that God was there. All the time. I heard about God doing real things, things that couldn’t be explained otherwise. My life is itself, since I was born, a testament to him because he saved me. I chose not to believe or live by his principles. I knew him and rejected him. I felt wretched, and loved at the same time. I believed the Bible was true and I spoke about its truth without knowing what God did in it. Loving God and accepting him is so much easier when one has read his word.


The boat ride was only a little short of being the best traveling experience of my life. We stopped by a gas station for boats in the middle of the water. It was like any other convenience store but everywhere around it was water. Moving water. I looked around once we embarked from the base. We weren’t even on the amazon river yet and already the river was so far across I could only see faint greys in the distance that resembled hills. Being so wide, it must also be deep. Tom told me that in places the water is so deep, the statue of liberty could stand at the bottom and would not penetrate the surface. The breeze created by the moving vessel made the hot, humid climate subside drastically. At one point in the voyage two rivers merged into one. One black, the other brown. Chemically the rivers were so different that they were not soluble. The two rivers ran beside each other for miles and never mixed. At night, Steve, Nehemiah and I watched Slumdog Millionaire, a beautiful film though above us was something even more beautiful. With the moon directly above us, a thin layer of clouds formed a perfect circle with the moon being the exact center. It’s a phenomenon that happens rarely and I don’t know the cause. However some of the drawbacks were that the boat was made for Brazilians, who’s height never reaches above six foot one inch, so I felt like I was in a hobbit hole. At night, it’s almost impossible to move around because hammocks are hanging everywhere. Also, where I was sleeping, right next to the engine, it’s impossible to sleep. It roars throughout the night which is bad enough, but also I had to get used to sleeping in a hammock which is another challenge in itself; though once I got situated it was very comfortable.


I met Greg, a pastor of the ARC. Greg is an awesome guy. The kind of guy that makes you feel comfortable enough that you want to tell him your life’s story within just four minutes of knowing him. It’s a trust thing that I think comes genetically from God. His short and chubby stature helps with this.


Talking with Josiah, a missionary from Alabama who plans on living in the Amazon, was also very enjoyable. Right away we got along. Maybe I have somewhat of the same gift as Greg or we are just very similar being two young guys, who have four siblings, are both the youngest in our families, and having a passion for missions.


The truck drops everyone off at their destinations. Looking around from the back of the flatbed truck, I notice that the grand majority of the girls here are very beautiful and attractive. I’m reminded that this city, Maues, is known for its sexual promiscuity. The city is known as the “Pastor’s Grave” as many pastors fell into sexual sin here; the YWAM base shut down here and I’m sure that sexual sin was a major cause of it. I’m the last stop and it’s a good thing too as our house is the most luxurious out of any of the others. Coconut trees and star fruit trees are scattered everywhere. We are left to help ourselves to the fruit and we eat a meal of delicious coconut water and coconut. Though the flavor is subtle, I enjoy it ten times more than the artificial coconut you will find sprinkled over cookies or cake.

Today Greg spoke about how the Bible isn’t supposed to be read as a rule book. Yes, the Bible talks a lot about “Don’t do this or you’ll go to hell,” and whatnot. However but we find out in the new testament, which is more applicable to our lives, that we will do God’s will by just asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The more we have the Holy Spirit the more we are able to love and think less about living a perfect life.


I don’t want to step on anyone’s beliefs ... well here we go. You alone are not the image of God. There. It’s out. When God first made the world, everything was good, until, however, he made man. He made us in his image, but it was not good. Anything that is not good, is not of God. So he changed it. It was not good in the sight of God that man was alone. So one single person isn’t what God intended. We become the image of God when we are together. Also it says in Matthew 18:20 that the Holy Spirit is present whenever two or more people meet in his name. In Psalms, there is a passage, one that my dad mentions, about a man speaking so passionately about how much he loves being in the temple. However, there is nothing holy about the actual temple. It’s only a man-made structure. The psalmist is talking about the people. After all, the church is about relationship.


James was talking about the church in America and the ritual of feet washing. Many think it is a practice of just being a servant to one another. Though being a servant is nice, I think Jesus intended something even deeper. After all Jesus rebuked those who were not willing to expose their uncleanliness so that it could be cleaned. So foot washing is about revealing your sin, accountability, and repentance as well as being a leader by serving.


During the conference in Maués, God healed me in many ways. The first day I was able to play drums. The second day, when Judson spoke, another drummer played. I noticed that he was better than me and he looked only a little older. An uncontrollable jealousy came over me. I couldn’t concentrate on worship. All I could do was watch him, examining him, waiting for him to make a mistake, and wondering what I would have done better. Feeling guilty for giving in to my jealousy, I then tried to worship God. Soon after, James came and prayed over me. He prayed that the Holy Spirit would come into my life. He prophesied that I would change lives and not know it, filled with the Holy Spirit, that others would weep at my very sight. He asked God to manifest himself in my life. This was exactly what I had been praying for the last two days exactly. Down to the very word “manifest.” Now it could be coincidence that he talked about the Holy Spirit coming into my life because it was what Greg talked about. Also the word “manifest” could also be coincidence because James uses the word often and maybe it found its way into my subconscious. Although I don’t want to pass off something that was of God to coincidence. this would be exactly what Peter did when Jesus walked on the water. He denied that it was Christ and thought he was just a ghost. After this, I felt compelled to pray for the drummer, despite my jealousy. Miraculously after I did, my jealousy was gone. Disappeared.


Drilling the well in the tribe is amazing though it’s a ton of work. Let me try to paint the picture for you. You can’t walk up a hill without sweating. When you play soccer, you feel as if you just dove into a pool. It’s a necessity to take baths in the river two times a day. I drink more than 3 liters of water daily. We take shifts working on the well - somebody is there at any time of day or night. The process of drilling the well is not that complicated, but it is also something that can’t be screwed up. The last well that was made in this village caved in. As a result, the Satere leaders have been passing on bad information about Christians and our God. We need to make one in its place to regain trust and access to the Satere Nation. This is also important because clean water is invaluable to them. If you have it, they will do anything to get it, even follow your god. But we don’t want to make a trade of any sort. We just want to bless them with a well and, if they accept it, a well that gives the water of life. A witch doctor of the Satere prophesied that our equipment would break, we would get sick, and end up leaving before the well was completed. The first two have already come true so far, but we’re not giving up. Being successful will prove that our God is more powerful and our love is greater than anything the witch doctor can supply. So there is a huge spiritual battle as well as a physical one.


As a side note, I got to bake bread on the boat with Kathy teaching me. Also we made a 1.5 inch thick pizza as well. The food was delectable. It would've been delicious even if we weren't on a boat. I swam across the river and took a walk in the jungle and found a stick bug and razor grass. The tribe has pineapple farms and cajú trees everywhere (cashews grow on cajú fruit).


The tribe also has a methodist church believe it or not. My guess is that a missionary came, planted the church, pumped the tribe full of religion, then left. We went to a service. The pastor, Leo, dressed in a collared shirt and khakis, started by praying then reading a single verse from psalms, which i thought was very comical. Although it was very sad because I feel like the gospel was delivered to them in a very religious way. I severely doubt that this tribe would worship God in a building with desks facing the front of a room like everyone in America.


The children of the the tribe are all beautiful. We would see them everyday swimming, washing clothes, and eating fruit by our boat. They all know Portuguese and the native language, but they are very timid to the point where you have to guess their ages and they will only give a smile and a nod as a response.


Never before have I both swam and played soccer at the same time.


Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m in the Amazon, with a tribe, living on a boat. Yesterday, I had an experience only a small percentage of Americans get to do: Alligator hunting in the Amazon with two Indians, one of them being the chief of the tribe. We embarked at nightfall. The air was cool, the water comfortably warm, and the moon lit our path well on this night I will never forget. You’d think that those jungle sound tapes created for relaxation are accurate, but, on the contrary, it’s quite loud. Frogs croak in unison. Some kind of large duck makes it’s mating call seemingly from every direction. Thousands of crickets chirp, a subtle harmony behind the bird’s melody. Layers upon layers of animal sounds make up the orchestra of the Amazon rainforest. There’s nothing relaxing about it. I’m definitely in one of the most famous place biologically in the world. We search around with a flashlight for the shining pearl that is the reflection of the alligator’s eye. It isn’t long before we find one. The alligator stops and is mesmerized by the funny light shining directly into its eye. Judging from the distance between the nose and the eye, it’s about a meter long - an adolescent, but still a fantastic meal. The 32-rifle remains steady as it aims. The next step would be to stab the reptile where the spinal cord meets the skull with a trident. Hesitating too long, the alligator realizes that the funny light is a threat and retreats in a splash of river water in an instant. Disappointed but still hopeful, we took the boat deeper into the jungle. Venturing slowly, at a paddle’s pace, we made our way through the trees. It reminded me of countless thriller/ monster movies concerning a giant snake or ape. We found some more alligators, but they were too small. Feeling a little defeated, we returned not empty handed, but with a small fish that we gave to the Satere rower.


Coming back from the tribe and back to Nova Lima, now a home away from home, I really started to reevaluate my relationship with God. Forgetting everything I was taught about God and just looking at our relationship, I realized that I wasn’t at the place with him that I thought. Asking questions like “How do I feel about God?” and “How does God feel about me?” prompted me to step into my subconscious. I thought that God was holding himself back to me. I wasn’t receiving the kind of communication that I would like from him. It seemed like others have a kind of understanding of him that was better while I still doubted. I felt as if I was waiting too long for the Lord to show himself. Now, knowing what I know is true about him, I find that I need to ask him to open my eyes to what he’s showing me. Open my eyes to the world around me. I don’t know how to seek him. In all of this I find that I am so conceited in how I relate to Christ. I want him to show me something or give me a supernatural understanding. I don’t want to doubt him anymore, but that is the essence of faith. Since I’ve been asking the Lord for these things, I find that he is nothing but faithful. One of the most convincing ideas for me that Jesus saves is that he transforms the wickedest of men like Paul, a murderer of the innocent, father’s who have become monsters or even me, into Godly men who live to serve God and love others.


Thank you everyone for your prayers and support while I was in the Amazon. No one got seriously injured and the well was a success. All glory and honor to God.