Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reaching the Amerindian

Until now we’ve related to you our experiences as we have visited Brazil, but it sure doesn’t seems to be related to evangelical mission work. That is, the teaching and preaching of God’s saving love and redemption of lives through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the unsaved masses of a remote group of people.

I want to challenge your view of mission work. What does it mean to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations?” (Matt 28:19) It has been said many times that the mission field begins right outside your front door. How we live our lives with the people we spend all our time is the greatest witness.

Reaching the indigenous Amerindians in the Amazon can be a delicate undertaking. By federal protection laws, direct, unsolicited evangelism of the Amerindian is strictly forbidden. So how can we reach them? To talk with these people, you MUST be invited to speak to them BY them. One avenue that Tom Padley and his team have found came from learning more about their quality of life. The tribes that live along the Amazon river depend on that river for just about everything. After a short time of observing a daily ritual, a pattern emerged. A resident of the village will come to the waters edge with a load of cookware to be washed. After rinsing it out and setting it on the bank to dry, the person would wade farther in and continue to wash themselves. A little downstream, there may be an ditch that drained some of the waste from the village into the river. Of course, they are careful to drawn water from UP-river for village use. But what about the next village DOWN-river? Or how about what has been done at the next village UP river? The tribal people are not ignorant of this, and know that the river water may cause sickness, so they find clean water sources elsewhere. Sometimes this source is over an hour’s walk away, deep into the jungle. Imagine scheduling two hours in your day just to retrieve the water you will need that day for cooking and drinking? Yet this is exactly what these people do.
So Tom learned what was involved in drilling fresh water wells. Through churches he has been partly responsible for raising up in the more metropolis areas, he raised the funds to purchase the drilling equipment. The word was spread that there was a “gringo” willing to assist the Amerindian in establishing a fresh water well at their village. Soon he was invited to do just this in a village a couple days boat ride into the jungle. Tom took a team upriver and over the course of several days was able to drill a well and provide a village with a safe, close water source. The chief asked Tom why he was willing to do this, and Tom told the chief that it was the overwhelming love of God that compelled him. This made the chief curious, because the gods he knew of were usually angry and vengeful types. He asked Tom to tell him more of this compassionate God. And just like that, a door was opened for Tom to witness, in love, to this village chief of the redeeming love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all the wrongs he had ever done. In time, the chief was converted and had Tom and other members of the team teaching the men and women of the village.

This is why we work to provide a quality of life service to the Amerindian. Meeting a physical need now allows their hearts to be open to hearing about the REAL need they have spiritually for the grace and love of our God. Just as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. He first addressed her physical needs and quality of life, then introduced her to the Water of Life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Potential area of ministry

Brazil is an interesting country. The cities are large with all the modern conveniences we take for granted in the states such as safe drinking water, electricity, efficient sewage treatment, multiple restaurants and grocery stores and reliable healthcare. However the further one travels from these centers of civilization, the less available such services become. Even in Nova Lima, we have had drainage/septic tank/ sewer line issues, water shortages and power outages all in the last two weeks. Lashmani, malaria and dengue fever are a constant threat. And that is just outside of the third largest city in Brazil.

In the outlying areas living conditions become primitive. Drinking water is any water one finds, toilet facilities is often an open pit in the ground or the nearest available tree, healthcare is folk remedy at best, non-existent at worse and food is only what one can catch or grow on his own.

Part of IAM’s mission is to minister to the tribal peoples of the Amazon, by digging village wells to provide safe drinking water. But so much more could be done to help these people to learn to care for themselves. By introducing proper drainage and sewage disposal/treatment, teaching them more efficient farming practices using readily available, low impact, high yield sustainable resources and health education. But in order to teach others one needs the proper training.

It is IAM’s vision to expand our ministry into the area of sustainable technology and farming practices. To that end, Randall and I have been asked to look into taking an Introduction to Tropical Agricultural Development course at Echo in Fort Meyers, Florida. we would do this while we are back in the States in May, before moving here on a more permanent basis.

Echo is a christian organization that focuses primarily on providing agricultural information and training to overseas workers and also operates a World Seed Bank with the goal of helping to alleviate world hunger. Check out their website for more in depth information and serving opportunities.

Once the Brazilian get a taste of what can be done with the resources God has given them, it is IAM’s prayer that some of them will catch the vision and attend Echo’s more in depth training courses.

Randall has estimated that in order for us to attend this training will cost around $1,400.00 total including travel, food and lodging. If it is the Lord’s will that we go to Echo and get this training, we believe the means will be provided. Please pray for His will to be done and consider whether you could help make this a reality.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Brazilian Dentistry Pt 2

(OK, I've kept you waiting long enough…)

The weekend passed. Sunday was another beautiful worship service in Tom's home. James led in several songs that we knew, so Paula and I were able to sing along in English. The rest of the day was relaxful.

Monday morning, at 10am I returned to the Dentist's office for my root canal. Dra. Barbara was all ready for me right on time, so we walked back to her examination room. I had mentioned to a friend of mine (who is a dental assistant) that I didn't really dread the actual procedure, just the time I was going to have to sit in that darn chair with my mouth stretched open. She suggested to me that I take my iPod with me and listen to some music to help pass the time. I showed my iPod to Dra. Barbara and she smiled, nodded and asked what I was listening to. I had decided to listen to my collection of Billy Joel (by-passing "Pressure" if it came on), but she had not heard of him. I put the ear phones in and she started her work.

Those of you who have had a root canal know something about the procedure. If you have NOT had one, (bless you for taking care of those white pearlies), I don't think I can adequately describe it. I CAN say that the anesthetic was excellent, and only a couple times did I feel a little twinge. Dra Barbara did a wonderful job, and said I took it all very well. After about an hour and 15 min, it was pretty much done. She packed the area with a temporary packing that actually wore down quite quickly. Going back out to the receptionist, I was set up with another appointment on Thursday to have Dra Sophia cap the tooth.

All in all, it was not a horrifying experience. Even after a few hours, I felt no aches or pains. The temporary packing kept flaking away and it was somewhat annoying, but that was the worst of it.

On Thursday, Dra Sophia cleaned out what was left of the packing, and cleaned the area rather thoroughly. After filling the hole, she told me that the work was more than she could do right then and would have to take a mold (or two) to get a crown made. This she did rather deftly. In a week I will have a new prosthetic tooth.

I talked with Dra Sophia some more this time. She had worked as a dental assistant in Sydney, Aus for awhile, and that was when she decided to become a full dentist herself. She has also visited the states, having spent some time in Chicago and New York to attend conferences and training on different dental techniques. I also learned she is a believer in Christ, attending an evangelical church locally. She invited me and Paula to come to a home group she attends, which I look forward to attending.

In my opinion, the dental work here in Brazil is just as competent as any I've ever gotten in the states. From what I understand, the Brazilians focus quite heavily on dental care, thinking that it will lessen some of the medical needs later in life. Therefore, it is VERY affordable. All the work I've had done will cost less than $500, but the quality is superb!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Brazilian Dentistry

Ok, on Thursday morning we woke up to a beautiful day. As usual, I went out to the front porch to check my email and enjoy the gorgeous view with my coffee. Paula offered me a bowl of yogurt, "Sure," I said, "and add some of that granola you bought yesterday." The combination was delicious, though I noticed that some of the dried papaya chunks were quite hard and near impossible to chew, with a few just getting swallowed (Good thing they were small).

Shortly after, as we made our way down to Tom & Kathy's house, my tongue noticed the crown of one of my molars was gone. Huh? A little more exploration confirmed it, a majority of that tooth was gone. I mentioned it to Kathy who immediately said I needed to go to the dentist. Uh oh… I thought. Dentistry in a foreign (some would say third world) country. Tom explained that there is a dentistry school in Nova Lima where they would take care of that for free. I was not convinced. It's one thing to go to a hair stylus school for a free haircut (that grows out in two weeks), but something totally different when you're are talking about medical care. Right after that, James (Tom & Kathy's son) came in and we explained the situation to him. "No Problem" he said. He would call his dentists office (a private practice) and see if they could repair it. Still wary, I agreed, cause it was driving me nuts!

James called and they said they could take me that day! So we went into town, and after a minor search for parking (always an issue here it seems) we got to the office. It was on the second floor, but it was very nice and professional looking. James talked to the receptionist, and she indicated that we take a seat. (Nothing like waiting to build the anxiety!)

After a few minutes, a young (late 20's) gal in a lab coat came out and motioned for me to follow her. James mentioned something and she replied, "Yes, I speak some English." Wow! Ok, I thought, we can call James into the room if there is any misunderstanding. I followed this gal to a examination room. I thought she was the hygienist, but then I noticed her coat was embroidered with "Dra. Sophia" and realized she must be the dentist. She offered light conversation, asking where I was from and what was my purpose for being in Brazil. Her english, though laden with a heavy accent, was quite sufficient for discussion. We talked about my situation and then she examined. She told me that practically the entire crown and the filling that had been there was gone and what I really needed was a root canal before it could be repaired. (Happy happy joy joy) For the time being she could put a temporary cap on it and then we could discuss the rest. I agreed. A little novocain and plaster of paris, and it was done. Back in the lobby, she explained that we needed to get a full mouth of x-rays prior to the root canal, and then to come back the next day (Fri.) (At least that is what I understood.) The patch work she just did would cost 60 Reais (pronounced "hay´-eyes," about $33US) and the root canal would be 380 (about $210). The X-rays are done by a different group, so we walked up a hill to another office and I proceeded to get about 14-16 x-rays. (108 Reais, $60).

On Fri, it was back to the dentist office. Now, this would be the first root canal I've ever had done, and while I wasn't especially nervous, there IS a certain amount of anxiety about having it done. Another young dentist, Dr. Barbara (who also spoke halting english) examined the x-rays and agreed that a root canal was necessary. "How long are you going to be in Brazil?" Hmmmmm. I stated that I thought it was going to be done that day, and she shook her head. No, she was fully booked for the day and all her patients had confirmed their appointments. Looking through her appointment book (which I could see was really full), she pointed to one name and said something to the effect of "This one is not in a big hurry, they can wait. Can you come back Monday at 10:30?" What choice did I have? We set up the appointment and now I had the weekend to wait.

(To be continued).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

If you ever want to feel completely out of your element in a foreign country try doing something commonplace like grocery shopping. How hard can it be, really? You go into the store, grab a cart and fill it with munchies, right? Wrong. Let me tell you about going to the Extra store in Belo. Think Wal-mart Super-center on steroids and crack. It was a huge store with hoards of people scurrying every which way. I couldn’t read the signs to figure out if I was going to end up in hardware or produce and my Portuguese has not progressed far enough to ask for directions from the helpful sales associates.

Thanks to Kathy and Jen I was able to finally arrive in the grocery section. They were having a sale on fruits and veggies so the produce section looked like feeding time in the shark pool. Scary stuff let me tell you. But being the intrepid adventurer that I am I dove in and eventually came out alive, in one piece with some guavas, nuts and raisins. I could have gotten more but I thought the produce at the small local fruit market in Nova Lima looked better.

Then there were the pre-packaged foods like cereal and such. All in Portuguese and Braille and only a few familiar brands that were priced way beyond what I’m willing to pay. I mean, I know how much that product runs in the States and there is no way I’m paying twice that amount. (or is it really twice the amount since I’m still getting used to the exchange rate?) Anyway, I think I got some oatmeal with strawberries and yogurt but then it might be birdseed for all I know.

So after a harrowing two hours in the store trying to look like I at least have a clue of what I’m doing, we made it to the check-out. As the girl was scanning my stuff I thought I was home free. Wrong! That’s when the real adventure began. For some reason my debit card wouldn’t go through. Uh-oh. I only had R $50.00 cash and my purchase was more than that. What to do? I always feel like an idiot when that happens in the States it’s even worse when you don’t speak the language. The girl is looking at me like I’ve suddenly sprouted horns or something. I can’t understand what she’s saying to me and the manager came and took my card away. Jen said something about the system freezing up. Yikes!! Eventually the manger came back with my card and asked me to follow her. Now I’m starting to panic. What did I do? But the matter was quickly resolved. It wasn’t my fault and my card went through. So now to figure out just what it was I bought.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Missionary Life

Well, we've been here two weeks now. On last Thursday I really got into the work of being a missionary. Was is evangelism? street witnessing? meeting tribal members?…..


It was clearing a clogged septic line.

We had noticed that the toilet in Tom and Kathy's house was backing up badly, and at one point it started draining out the cleaning port in the yard. Running a pipe snake didn't find any obstruction (we later determined the snake may have doubled up), but the "water" would still not drain. So on Thursday we Tom, Robert and I started digging out the line to find the point of blockage. Starting at the septic tank, we dug back about 12 feet of drain pipe until we reached an elbow. We could tell by sound it made when we knocked on it that the clog was right there. The pipe was brittle in places, and we had inadvertently punched a couple holes in it while digging, so we knew it would need replaced. Rob and I went to the hardware supply and picked up a new pipe and took it back to the house.

We knew at this point there was no chance of avoiding a mess. As we lifted out the old pipe and broke the connection at the elbow, the clogged broke free and it was NASTY!!!! Tom turned on the water hose and diluted it out as quickly as we could. After that we got the new pipe in place and fitted just as a light rain began to fall. On Friday, Tom finished the patch and we shoveled the dirt back over it.

So why am I writing about this as REAL missionary work?

Whether we serve in a populated urban area, or in the jungle with tribal people, the lifestyle of a missionary really becomes a self-reliant one. We don't have the luxury of calling a repair professional for every little (or big) thing that stops working or needs adjustment. Even if the service is obtainable, the cost is usually more than we have spare. Part of my calling is to bring the knowledge and abilities I have, specifically as a computer technician, and generally as a jack-of-all-trades (thanks dad) to help lighten the load of the workers already here, so that their time and efforts can be more focused on using their gifting of teaching and evangelizing. I have a calling there as well, and will supplement as needed.

Yet, that self-reliance is only at the local level. We could never accomplish any of the work we are here to do without the prayers and support of our partners back home. Your contribution allows us to meet our day to day needs so that we can reach out to those around us. Please continue to pray for the work happening here, and for the people who's lives are being changed by the power of Christ's love.