Love Transcends All

“I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.”Philemon v. 20

Portanto, irmão, eu lhe peço que me faça este favor no Senhor, e que assim me reanime o coração em Cristo.”-Filemom v. 20

Brother Vinny from LDC!

Brother Vinny from LDC!

How important is it to have a brother that can refresh us in Christ? I revere Paul’s honest letter to Philemon. He is appealing to Philemon’s heart. He could easily request for assistance  based on a “repayment” relationship however Paul writes,

“I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.”Philemon v. 14

Mas não quis fazer nada sem a sua permissão, para que a sua bondade não venha a ser como que por obrigação, mas voluntária.”Filemom v. 14

We must appeal to one another on the basis of Christ and nothing more. If we eliminate self-righteousness and use Jesus as our example then our relationships will be fruitful. Jesus’ love brought Paul to love Oneisimus and in turn Oneisimus was freed from slavery. What can our love do for another? If we forgive sin as Jesus did, then whose chains can we break? Human judgement only shackles us together, for we are all sinful.

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you  on the basis of love.”Philemon v. 8

Pois bem, ainda que eu sinta uma grande liberdade em Cristo para lhe ordenar o que convém, prefiro, contudo, pedir em nome do amor.”Filemom v. 8

Dennis sharing the truth about John the Baptist at Sunday morning worship at Derby park.

Dennis sharing the truth about John the Baptist at Sunday morning worship at Derby park.

We are in love with Christ. Our creator would rather appeal to us on the basis of our hearts then force. He imagined how the universe would transpire. He set the galaxies in motion. He erected man from dust knowing full well that the intricacies of our heart would transcend our mind. God not only gave us his heart, he sewed the heart of Jesus into our very own. The blood of Christ courses through us, living water renews us, the salt of the earth sustains us.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses it’s saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”Matthew 5:13

“Vocês são o sal da terra! Se o sal, porém, perde o seu sabor, como poderá voltar a ser salgado? Ele não presta para mais nada! É jogado fora e pisado pelos que passam!”Mateus 5:13

VFC at LDC!

VFC at LDC!

However, we will not be trampled upon. Our actions will remain full of salt, saturated with life in a dead world.

“They are not of the world even as I am not of the world.”John 17:16

“Eles não pertencem ao mundo, assim como eu também não pertenço ao mundo.”João 17:16

Our companion Bolinha (Little Ball) chasing after children making us all reel with laughter Sunday morning!

Our companion Bolinha (Little Ball) chasing after children making us all reel with laughter Sunday morning!

“Kids are tasty!” Bolinha

“YUM! CAUGHT ONE!”-Bolinha

And lastly,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”Romans 12:2

“Não sejam mais moldados por este mundo mas, pela nova maneira de vocês pensarem, vivam uma vida diferente. Então vão descobrir a vontade de Deus para vocês, isto é, o que é bom, agradável a Ele, e perfeito.”Romanos 12:2

Itamaraca

Itamaraca

Claudia, Denise, and I at Itamaraca

Claudia, Denise, and I at Itamaraca

Mika and I

Mika and I

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Shadow of the Cross

“You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep but let us be alert and self-controlled.” –1 Thessalonians 5:5

“But since we belong to the day, let us be self controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” 1 Thessalonians 5:8

Floresta de Curado

Floresta de Curado

As we each walk our respective journeys of faith in Christ we are sure to face shadows. Shadows of despair, misery, and evil in this fallen world. We are not of this world, nor do we belong in it. Paul writes to the Romans an urgent message,

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”-Romans 8:13

We require the Holy Spirit as an intercessor on our behalf. As children of the light, as followers of Christ, we face an unceasing battle against Satan and his minions. We might be unaware of this battle due to all of our distractions. Distractors are a deceptive tool masterfully used to keep us oblivious to the spiritual turmoil within our lives. Money, prestige, social status, societal pressures, sex, envy, etc. are all things that blind us from obtaining our one true life in Christ.

One thing that has been evident on my mission to Brazil is the presiding evil. Today commences the São João (Saint John) festival in Recife in commemoration of John the Baptist. The community adorns themselves in intricate costumes and dance Forro into the night. A feast of corn takes place on the festival of São João. As the sun wanes and dusk slowly blankets the horizon, one by one, bonfires emblazon across the city.

"As the sun wanes..."

“As the sun wanes…”

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“one by one, bonfires emblazon across the city…”

The raging fire soon creates a veil of smoke towering above the city. The ominous smoke creeps through the windows of everyone’s home and incites my senses. This does not feel right. This festival is just one more distraction from Christ.

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“Veil of smoke…”

My brothers and sisters, I urge you to be vigilant. Eliminate distractions from your lives and search for the light. Dusk brings hope of daylight, but when the sun sets where can we place our hope? Paul tells us that we are children of the light and sons of the day. We must remain alert and be self-controlled in order to survive the night. And for others we must do the same. Let your light illuminate the way for others. As a candle in the night, wax strong, and move forward through the shadows. Can you see the brilliance of the light at the end of the tunnel? Christ is waiting for us. Gather as many people as you can, and see them through the narrow alleys of deception.

Can you see the light?

Can you see the light?

Gather as many as you can.

Gather as many as you can.

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We will not fear.

Retain your hope, and be certain that at the end of the corridor of life waits Jesus with open arms.

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Christ awaits.

Lugar de Criança! (Kid’s Place)

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”- Matthew (Mateus) 25:40

My boys and I having a blast at Coque with Lugar da Criancas and Volunteers for Christ!

My boys and I having a blast at Coque with Lugar da Criancas and Volunteers for Christ!

Wednesday, Lugar de Criancas  (LDC) (Kid’s Place) was magical! I had imagined that such a joyous place only existed in fairy tales. As I stepped foot into Kid’s Place I was captured by the utter joy of the children. The criancas filled the gymnasium to the brim with their joy and excitement for Jesus. Led by the multi-talented guitarist, Vinny, we sang songs in loving harmony. The children danced and sang a song illustrating how the words of Jesus are like seeds which allow us to grow high. It was inspiring to witness the children sing these songs from the memory of their coração. Ensuing  praise and worship were animated Bible classes led by the Volunteers for Christ (VFC) from Ft. Worth, Texas. The excited students sat and earnestly listened to the story of Jesus told with the use of an “evange-cube.” This evangelical tool served to bring Christ’s story to life for children by offering them a hands on activity.

Following classes we met in the gym once again for some good old fashioned shenanigans. Everton “Energizer Bunny” Ferreira led a game where everyone hopped around flapping their arms in all manners shouting “pindo-lindo” (no meaning :)). Suddenly Everton would shout a number such as “tres!” and everybody would dash and squeeze on to one another to form a trio. With no inherent meaning other than to have fun, these games were played by crianca and adult alike. There was no distinction between kid or grown up. We all reverted to children; the children who Jesus teaches us to love more than anyone.

Following a jovial and raucous lunch together, we all headed to a nearby overpass at an impoverished neighborhood known as the favelas (slums). The VFC team spread the word to the resident children to invite all! Once a hundred or so children and teens were gathered, Vinny displayed yet another of his many talents. He hilariously entertained the children as a clown to break the ice for the afternoon activities. Following Vinny, two members from LDC performed a skit as mimes. The theme was sin and how we can easily become ensnared if we are not careful.

We broke up into groups for the remainder of the warm, glowing, Christ-filled afternoon. The youth could choose from a range of activities from soccer to slack-lining.

This little guy showing us up at our own activity!

This little guy showing us up at our own activity!

This adorable little boy hung out with me for most of the day!

This adorable little boy hung out with me for most of the day!

Everton

Everton “Danger” Ferriera displays his fearlessness and exemplary balance on the slack-line.

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Attempting the “flamingo” technique and failing miserably…

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Young man displaying the fierce competiveness of Brazilians!

Brazilian futebol skills are unparalleled.

Brazilian futebol skills are unparalleled.

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Chillaxin’

My long lost brother, Ramos!

My long lost brother, Ramos!

The VFC team along with the rest of us seized the opportunity to share the wonderful news of Jesus to these precious children. I witnessed several members of the VFC team courageously and gently share their testimony to the members of the community. Some community members were thirsty for spiritual water and received the word like water to parched land. Others were curious of Jesus’ story, but were unwilling to accept him into their hearts. I witnessed Joe (VFC) passionately share the story of Jesus to a young mother and her son. Joe asked her if she had accepted Jesus into her heart and she quickly deflected by expressing that she was not ready. What Joe did next inspired me. He was not at all discouraged by her response. Rather than give up on her, he gently asked her if we could all pray for her. Together, we prayed that Jesus would watch over her and her son and that someday she will accept Christ into her heart. Joe’s action epitomizes what Jesus would have us do. We are not to give up when we encounter hearts that are encrusted by the plaque of sin. Rather, let us be a guiding light as Joe. Your efforts are applauded here and in heaven, brother. I pray that we finish strong and wrap up the week at Lugar da Criancas with songs from the children that reach up to the heavens!

Pour Out My Life

My feet are pounding pavement on this renewing Brazilian morning. There is something about this morning run that is different. Fatigue is setting in. My feet are throbbing. My body is parched. As I run, I suck on my own tongue for every last bit of moisture possible. The concentration of water droplets in the air saps every last bit of water that I possess. This is how it is to live in Brazil. Potable water is a premium. Clean water is a Godsend. This I learned very quickly. Droplets of sweat blanket my shoulders and back. The humidity serves as a natural exfoliant. The things that do not belong accumulate in the form of perspiration. At the same time the wind rushes forth and whirls around me and with it carries the old away. I imagine this is how the Holy Spirit works. Through running, walking, working, speaking, living, I am exhausted. This is my wilderness experience. As I stride through the less than ideal sidewalks of  Recife the I can see a vibrant array of colors. The local flora invade my senses from all directions. They’re leaves are like blades piercing through the shell of my being. A thousand machete-like leaves cross my face and my true self bursts forth.

A thousand leaf-like machetes...

A thousand machete-like leaves…

The experiences from the past few days rush to the forefront of my memory and I can vividly see the young impoverished children of a Boa Viagem public school joyfully playing on their playground which is simply a fenced in concrete slab.

Children of Boa Viagem public school joyfully playing creative games for their lack of an actual playground.

Children of Boa Viagem public school joyfully playing creative games for their lack of an actual playground.

The remnants of their old playground which has wasted due to lack of funding.

The remnants of their old playground which has wasted due to lack of funding.

The request of one of the teachers at this school resonates with me. She asked the parents for assistance in paying for water for their almost non-existent school.

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Two classroom building of a Boa Viagem public school.

As much as my feet throb from walking I understand that my feet do not throb as theirs do. Many of these children are send to school in sandals because they have no money for shoes. My throat is not as sore from theirs due to lack of water. My heart does not ache as their heart does from lack of hope; from knowing that their society that has largely forgotten about them.

Still running, the aroma of the streets is an enlivening combination of many things. The zesty-sweet scent of the brilliant flowers lining the sidewalks is enchanting. Nature has enchanted me. It has offered many gifts, and it has offered many hardships. Life is bittersweet is Recife. There is much life and there is much death. There are blessings, and there are sins. To survive I must strengthen my core. I feel myself adapting spiritually and physically. My body physically needs less and less water to sustain itself and more of the living water. My core has tightened physically to brace my spine for the impact of the unforgiving cement. My core has tightened spiritually from clinging to Christ. I am poised now, more than ever, to do his work. God, give me your work and give me your rest. Give me your life and death. Give me your love and your wrath. Wrap me in your arms. Bring me with you, wherever you would have me go. I love you, my God. You sustain me. You are my portion. You have my life. I am yours and yours only.

“I am poised now, more than ever, to do his work…”

WATCH, and may your heart burn as mine.

God’s Birthday Cake!

Thursday evening following my English classes with my students. (Love them!) Joshua and the crew threw a surprise Birthday party for Livia!!! Josh’s thoughtful preparation and craftiness made it so that she was genuinely and happily surprised. The hospitable hosts that they are, the Brazilians prepared for me a heaping mound of bite size Brazilian foods and sweets that burst with rich flavor upon chewing. Knowing verily that if I were consume such a generous amount of candied offerings that I would lapse into a sugar coma, I managed to recruit eager consumers in my stead. jaja Altogether it was a wonderful night where Josh displayed his love for Livia and snuck into her heart once more.

Josh showing that chivalry is not dead. Cavalheirismo nao esta morto. Well done, Josh!

Josh showing that chivalry is not dead. Cavalheirismo nao esta morto. Well done, Josh!

Friday, being that there are no classes at Escola da Biblia, Josh and the crew planned a retreat at Porto da Galinhas. I awoke early Friday morning and took some Dramamine under the impression that the trip would take a couple of hours. (Josh told me it was!) As it turned out the trip was a pleasant one hour long. jaja Although I was zombie-fied from the Dramamine when we arrived at Porto I was awakened by the brilliance of the scenery.

God's birthday cake! YAY!

God’s birthday cake! YAY!

This day was God’s magnificent present. We experienced an array of color in the spectrum of weather we received. My best comparison of the delightful view is to compare the sky to a colorful Birthday cake of our Lord. Imagine if you will, envision, the clouds in the sky as decorative, fluffy, frosting laced with all shades of blue. Instead of “Happy Birthday” written in the sky I could see His name written above. Traced in the sky was vibrant white and areas where God used his finger to masterfully shade dark areas.

He even gave us sweet sprinkles in the form of rain! Well, more like a downpour of rain but this only demonstrates his generosity more so! As the sun waned lights began to illuminate one by one on the horizon as if God were lighting candles for the cake.

Candles lighting in the distance.

Candles lighting in the distance.

What more can I say,

of such a lovely day?

I can say naught about the things that weren’t,

except for Everton, the Brazilian, got sunburnt. 😦

It’s quite late so I must go. Goodnight brothers and sisters.

Boa noite,

Gabriel

Have a LISTEN to one of my favorites, Sean Feucht, and ENJOY the cake! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFp0jHQEg78

Recife Update: Quão Maravilhoso, Meu Deus (How Marvelous, My God)

“God’s presence is so powerful here it has been a constant battle choking back tears.”

“I’m so forgetful, but you always remind me. You’re the only one who brings me peace.” (United Pursuit-Running in Cirlces)

The past few days I’ve been a sniveling mess. God’s presence is so powerful here it has been a constant battle choking back tears. It may be a song of worship, such as the lyrics that I’ve written above or an inspiring declaration of faith from one of my students at Escola da Biblia that seizes my heart. My students, Keliana, Ana, and Karol are such a joy to teach! They arrive and I am instantly uplifted. Ana is the mother of Karol, and Keliana is Karol’s b.f.f. Its such a warming experience digging into the book of  Luke with these three. Karol and Keliana are both around the age of 13, and it is extraordinary how much knowledge they have of the Bible. Tonight, we read out of the book of Luke 2:41-52. We all reveled at Jesus’ ability to converse with the religious teachers in the Temple. When Jesus was asked by his parents why he stayed behind he said, “Why did you have to look for me? You should have known that I must be where my Father’s work is.” We contemplated together what Jesus meant by my Father’s work,” Karol confidently stated that her interpretation was baptism. Keiliana asserted that God’s work meant “cleaning people’s hearts.” Ana added that God’s work included “the forgiveness of sins.” To conclude the lesson we set out to accomplish a homework assignment. I asked them to reflect upon their own lives and determine a way that God’s work may be evident in their own lives. My apprehensions of giving an assignment were quelled by the girls’ bright, enthusiastic, smiles.

Yesterday, João was gracious to allow me to participate in his class covering Hebreus (Hebrews). João displayed an impressive array of presentation skills imbued with passion. On the whiteboard, he drew a timeline which represented our journey of faith. He drew various points above the line, some high, and some low. It was evident that he was illustrating the mountains and valleys of our spiritual journey. He asked me where my faith was at this point in my life and I told him that my faith is not as great as it could be, so I pointed low. My thoughts are if my faith were as small as a mustard seed, that I could move mountains. I believe that faith is something that I need for everything yet I possess very little

This afternoon I was privileged to visit the marvelous village of Olinda with Miss Mika and Teacher Jaja.

Teacher Jaja, Miss Mika, & Café com Leite from left to right in Olinda.

Teacher Jaja, Miss Mika, & Café com Leite from left to right in Olinda.

Upon our arrival we walked out to the shore of this alluring community. As we peered over the opalescent, aquamarine, waters of the Atlantic we soaked in God’s creation. The ebb and flow of the waves receding and returning turned on the shores of my heart. I could almost feel the water touching my heart and washing away the old. At the urging of the adventurous Jaja, we wandered to the lighthouse atop the hill that contains Olinda. As we neared the lighthouse, it became clear that the residents in this particular neighborhood of Olinda were not as blessed monetarily as the rest of Recife. I reflected upon the apparent poverty and filed it away in my mind. I know that I will face this again when I visit the “slums” of Recife with Everton in the weeks to come.

Friends,family, brothers, and sisters, if you are reading this and following my spiritual journey than I plea to you this; Search for your faith. Regardless of your religious affiliation take time to dig deep past the surface of your faith. Do you believe because the majority of people believe or do you not believe to go against the grain of everyone else? Identify the false perceptions that are inhibiting you from truly experiencing your faith. Not because it is what society deems appropriate, but because you owe it to yourself to search. It will be a difficult time. There will be doubt. Fear will be present. Hardship you must endure. However on the journey through the ocean of life it is only the bravest seafarers that reap the rewards. Do not look back at the port from where you left, to the right or to the left at the cannons that will fire. Keep Christ as your compass and rejoice! Heaven is in plain view!

“Keep Christ as your compass…”

LISTEN HERE to United Pursuit-Running in Circleshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtIiUg4B7VM

5/1/2015

This morning was a rainy one. I awoke to the usual sounds of tropical birds and the background sound of pouring rain. Aureni called my attention to what sounded like a small child shouting, “Mom, Mom, Mom!” She informed me that the culprit of the shouts was actually a clever parrot. A parrot who learned to say, ma, grandma and various other phrases. Under the close watch of Aureni, I made my first tapioca which is a type of starch-filled root and staple food of Brazil. This “Brazilian quesadilla”, as I have aptly named it, consists of tapioca  cooked like a tortilla, filled with queijo (cheese), and sprinkled with shredded coco. If this doesn’t make your mouth water, than you certainly will when you hear how it is dipped in honey! Muito delicioso!

My new starch filled treasure.

My new starch filled treasure.

After breakfast I grabbed my umbrella and departed for Escola da Biblia. Many of the citizens were waiting under cover of the buildings for the steady rain to pass. As for myself, who knows nothing of rain or its behavior, continued merrily on my way to the church.

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Misusing my umbrella for a selfie.

I discovered that I haven’t the slightest idea of how to use an umbrella. I thwacked five or so Brasileros on my way with my oversized umbrella. I even entrapped a man against the wall of a corner building as I waited to cross the street. Blissfully unaware, I heard the stifled plea for air from behind my umbrella that I had positioned horizontally, propped on my shoulder. “Desculpe! (Sorry!)”

Once I was sufficiently finished playing in the rain I arrived at EDB. I joined in some of the English classes form LST and watched as they skillfully taught English to their students by reading scripture from the book of Luke, and Acts.

Felipe explaining quite well in English what the book of Luke means to him.

Felipe explaining quite well in English what the book of Luke means to him.

Briannon discussing the book of Acts with her LST student.

Briannon discussing the book of Acts with her LST student.

Jonathan rationalizing things with numbers as mechanical engineers do best!

Jonathan rationalizing things with numbers as mechanical engineers do best!

I also conversed with as many people as possible around the building. I watched as Josh and João conducted business with no horseplay whatsoever.

No monkey business here between Josh and Joao.

No monkey business here between Josh and Joao.

Once I wore out everyone’s ears at EDB with my conversation I decided to head home and recharge. Tonight, I tried to relax and allow my circadian rhythm to reset. Brazilians are night owls I have discovered. My US lifestyle of 6a-11p is thrown all out of proportion! THANKS EVERTON! jajaja Anyhow, I am going to turn in early tonight to get some much needed zzz’s.

Ate Amanha!