Thursday, November 12, 2009

Macapá, Amapa aka the middle of the world

Before I begin telling the next story I want to share something concerning a previous post. I have always had problems with the common theme of the sheep in the Bible. Something that really helped me with this idea was a sermon by Margaret Feinberg about our image in God as sheep and him as the shepherd. She is very knowledgeable on the subject and I encourage you to listen to it as well as other sermons by my dad, joshua dylan, leanor ortega, etc. They have been very encouraging to my walk with God.

James & I leave for the airport last Thursday and are at the counter about to check our luggage. The woman at the counter asks for my passport. To my surprise, I find out that I had forgotten it at home. When James reminded me to grab my I.D. before we left, I thought of my I.D. in my wallet, not my passport. Sometimes the word “blockhead” describes me very well. Regressing, we ask the woman if there is another flight available soon as she would not let me on the plane. She answers that there is another flight tomorrow morning at 7:30. Thinking that everything would be fine, we ask how much it would cost to change the flight. It costs R$549 to change the flight. So now we’re doubting if I will even go on the trip. I’m kicking myself for forgetting while James is explaining to me that our trip is ruined. He would have to cancel the entire trip because he refuses to travel alone. The woman returns (we didn’t even notice that she left) with great news. She was able to wave the flight change completely free of charge! Our trip was saved! James will leave tonight and I’ll stay at the airport while someone brings me my passport. The only way I can get someone to take me home or at least get someone to bring my passport is with a calling card (I don’t use a cell phone in Brazil). The only place that has calling cards in the airport was closed and James couldn’t reach Sagares on his cell phone. James leaves for the plane and I’m sitting, stranded at the airport. I kept thinking, “Lord, I don’t know what’s going to happen but you promised me that everything will be okay and I will be taken care of. I can do nothing at this point so it’s up to you to do something about this.” Finally I start asking people to use their cell phones and get a negative response. Figuring out that strangers are not too fond of eighteen year old guys asking to borrow phones, I changed my tactic. I go to the desk and the woman at the help desks let’s me use her phone without my asking. I was planning to call James’ house, but I accidentally called James cell phone. To my surprise James answers. I thought he would be on the plane by now. He continues to tell me that his flight was delayed and no one would make their connections so they rescheduled his flight for 7:30 the next day. My flight! Not only this, but since the airline messed up, they paid for a taxi to take us home and back to the airport. Neither of us have to travel alone and everything is the same only 11 hours after we planned. God is good and God must have something for us to do in Macapá.

Flying Gol, an airline, was a less-than-savory experience. The plane didn’t land in Brasilia, it literally bounded into the capital of Brazil. The plane we were supposed to take to Macapá was denied by the Health Department so we were transferred to another gate. The meal served on the 5 hour plane ride was a miniscule packaged cookie.

We are greeted at the smallest commercial airport ever to exist by a man named Washington. He is our connection to the English school, the English concert event, and the church that we are helping out with. Widowed with a beautiful 2-year-old daughter, he is getting back into leadership after the tragedy. Fish is what we have for lunch as well as every meal we will eat in the city by the river. This restaurant in particular is owned by someone in the church and gives us lunch everyday free of charge. We get our things settled in the hotel (doing God’s work is really a tough sacrifice) and take a nap. The first day was the English school. We are interviewed by a group of mostly non-Christians about American culture, how Americans view Brazil, etc. We also get to share a little about our lives and what we believe about Jesus Christ in a respectful way. One guy, Igor, talks to me after and tells me that he admires my courage to pause my life and take a trip to find out what I think is important in life.

After a satisfying breakfast, we visit an ancient fort that was built in colonial ages. This is an ideal place for a little parkour, however the security doesn’t think so. They have cannons, moats, bridges that can be easily taken out to take refuge during attacks, barracks, cells designed to drown people when the river was high, and a concert stadium outside. After we go to the church to practice and go over the set list because, after all, this is a concert, not worship. Taking another nap, we are ready for the concert and it goes great. James expresses his life story through the medium of music and song, ultimately stating that Jesus coming into his life was the one and only thing that he lives for and derives all joy from; he even derives joy in suffering. Straight from the concert we are taken to a wedding reception where we know no one. It is quite awkward considering we know one person and we show up in t-shirts and ripped jeans. The stares of the people at the party look at us in shock for showing up in such a way, but the bride and groom welcome us with open arms. It was an excellent nineteenth birthday.

Today, Sunday, we go to the “ground zero” or the “middle of the world.” It is the place on the equator that is the starting place for the degrees around the world going east and west. The monument they have is a giant wall with a circle cut out of it at the top. Being on the north-hemisphere side of things makes me miss everyone in the U.S. a little more. At night we are headed for the church to worship and for James to give a message. We show up and find out that their worship band will play four songs before we start. The band is phenomenal to say the least. Almost everyone in the worship band also plays in a thrash metal-core band called Martyrium (the members of which are very cool and I exclude them from anything I will say concerning the leadership of this church). I don’t know why they felt the need to play since James was already scheduled to play. The singer kept saying things like, “Give your best clap to the Lord! Everyone clap!” which, I’ve come to know as conjuring feelings and I got a very inauthentic vibe from it all. The music was great though. Then the pastor gets up and starts to recognize every leader in the church with a sort of role call because he feels that it is necessary to make the leaders of the church known to the public. He essentially wants people to come to the church because of the reputation that its keyboardist, drummer or apostle have. He feels that the only reason that he is the one on stage is because God gave him the anointing and skill to be there. So, now, he’s somehow better than all of us. James and I are called onto the stage and James begins to speak against having positions and hierarchy in the church and stating that the only thing that is important is what God has to say through us. We need to apply Paul’s teaching that we need to decrease and Jesus, increase. The congregation is very pleased with this and the pastor started to sink in his seat. God begins to do some amazing things. People start weeping, praying over each other, and confronting who they are before God. The holy spirit was doing something in myself as well. Usually I have to try to read James or find a beat. I’m usually timid when on the drums, but this time I felt loose and playing better than I ever have. Not that I was playing things beyond my skill, but everything felt fluid and easy. Every fill, every beat, every transition felt right. I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew God was with me then playing drums, controlling the movements of my hands. James finishes speaking about having the Holy Spirit come into your inner being and knowing the plentitude, the depth, the width, and the length of God, God’s eternity, and the “apostle” of the church, as he calls himself, comes onto the stage. He starts preaching about raising R$1000 a day from the church to pay for a giant new cathedral that will be “God’s place in the city.” Isn’t it the people that are God’s place? Aren’t people the one’s that we should be investing in? Places are a great place to serve people, but when the focus becomes more about the building than the people, we are not doing God’s will. Don't get me wrong, however, that I am against this church. I long for them to seek the Lord with all of their hearts and find fulfillment in him, which they are very capable of doing! Just the healing that occurred during worship alone is testament to this.

Talking with Washington and Ana about the dynamics of the church only confirmed what we had seen. There apparently is a constant flux of backslidden people in the church. James thinks that the pastor and the apostle are leading the congregation of amazing people away from the Lord. The people need to get away from them before they are deceived much longer. Washington’s spouse had told her husband before she died that the pastor and the apostle were stopping the church from growing and she thought they needed to leave before God started moving in their church. Only time will tell if this prophesy is true.

So I’ve been back in Nova Lima for a few days now and I’m working tirelessly on the art. Though I’m trying to get it done asap and the work is more involved than I originally thought, everyone thinks the drawings are coming along very well. I am so excited to see the final-product.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Judging from just the name, I had pretty high expectations. First, we stopped in Pequi to cut the 7 hour drive by two hours and so James could teach at the ministry school there. The kids there are great and they’re about to finish their studies that have been a year in the making. A girl was telling me over what they call “Burger King” (Pequi is a small town), that the city of Pequi doesn’t have a college because the politicians in the town have such a desire for power that they won’t allow anyone to be educated in the town, so they can keep their power.

We arrive in Uberlândia and it’s Ubertastic. We pass Uberestaurants and Uberpeople on the way to the four-star UberHotel, which was a great blessing to us especially considering our hosts had never met us before. We have some time to relax and get a bite to eat then we’re off to the church. A sort of conference was going on there for three days about worship and James was asked to speak and worship for all three with me as his drummer. The first night we worshiped while another guy spoke about how we think God owes us something when he has already done enough for us. This is all true though he presented it by almost yelling at the congregation from a pedestal. People who want to express love should never preach like they’re angry. I think it would express the love of Christ by speaking to the crowd like they were talking with one person face-to-face, instead of insulting the crowd. We head back to the hotel and get glorious Brazilian pizza delivery to our room.

The next day James teaches for 4 hours with only a small break in the middle. After, James tells the people who were impacted by what he said to stay and talk with each other. Before we left we heard people weeping. I don’t think that change or sense of community occurs when we are in seats listening to a sermon. It happens when people gather and converse in the name of Jesus. We rest for a little at the hotel and come back a little less than enthused because we were so tired. We start to worship through music and we didn’t stop for two hours. James and I both sense that people are warming up to worshipful hearts. We leave with more energy and excitement than when we came.

After worship, we are taken to a very expensive restaurant. The hospitality of Brazilian culture and the influence of Christ in their lives continues to surprise me.

Another day of teaching and worship goes by. At the end, so many people were commenting about how God had spoken into their lives over the past few days. I don’t think i’ve ever actually been able to admit full-heartedly that God is good until now. i always knew that he is, but I didn’t fully believed it was true. Someone wanted to bless me and gave me a new pair of shoes. I am so grateful because I know how hard it is to get a pair my size in Brazil.

I am more thankful everyday that God called me to Brazil and that I took this step out in faith because he is teaching me new things everyday.

In a half an hour I am taking another trip to Macapa, Amapa with James to an english school where I will again play drums and help Brazilians practice speaking english. The city is practically on the equator so it will be hot.