Recife Update: Sunday, May 31st

LST group introduction!

LST group introduction!

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The Brazilians doing a famous job at pretending I am entertaining! haha

My introduction as the

My introduction as the “coffe com leite” as Josh described me. Still don’t know what that means. haha

Everton, leading our ice breaker activity with unparalleled charisma!

Everton, leading our ice breaker activity with unparalleled charisma!

All day I was on the verge of tears. This morning, Aureni and I headed over to the street ministry in the park. Upon our arrival I was greeted exuberantly and hugged tightly by a group of homeless children. One of their names was Andreza, who must have been 8 years old or so. Dennis a missionary from the U.S. ushered everyone in a circle and we all sat as he shared a message of hope to all. We began singing wonderful songs of praise! Everyone joined in unison singing and clapping songs of worship. It warmed my heart to see such impoverished people so grateful for the little that they possess. After a few songs, Dennis shared passionate words from the Bible. Although I did not understand everything, his message was clear. With God, you can overcome anything. Dennis also explained how Christ came for the poor and the oppressed. How he did not come for the rich, but those that need him most. At the culmination of Dennis’ message we began handing out sandwiches and drinks to the homeless. My part was to give each person two ham sandwiches until all were fed before handing out seconds. It was impossible to only give some of these people two when it was evident that they were starving for more. Small children bombarded me with desperate prods and pleas for more food and water to drink. It took all the strength I possessed not to break down and cry. I felt like falling to the floor and weeping. The sorrow I felt was almost unbearable.

Once we ran out of food, the LST group, Aureni, and I headed for the church to join in an English bible class. Once we arrived we were happily greeted by all. Once we were able to navigate through the multitude of brothers and sisters we joined in the English bible class held in the beautiful garden of the Church. Giacomo, led our lesson about Job! Our class was beautifully interactive between us Americans and a few Brazilians including the lovely, Eloa. We sang songs together led by the talented member of the LST group, Steven. When class was finished we joined the rest of the conregation for an invigorating sermon. Being my third day in Recife I have been blessed by the ability to understand quite a bit of Portuguese. Pastors took turns delivering the message for the morning with one theme in common. God is almighty! Each minister enlivened the congregation with a fiery message welling with passion. A young man from church led our songs of worship in the most resonant, baritone voice. These songs of joy filled my heart with such joy that it had nowhere to go but in my tears. Tears of complete happiness.

Following service, I mingled with as many brothers and sisters as possible. I met many wonderful people, all eager to know more about me. I met a teenage boy named Victor who was dying for me to come speak with is Amateur Brazilian football team after I shared that I am a varsity football coach. He explained that although American football is relatively new, that there is a fairly large league in Brazil. We talked about football and shared each others favorite teams. Victor and his younger brother’s team are the Cowboys…Go figure?! :/ Victor’s little brother who must have been 12 or so animatedly explained that he was going to become like Ray Lewis as he puffed up his chest. At least he had one thing right about football!

After spending the majority of the day at church, Aureni, Mike, and I headed home. I immediately seized the opportunity for a 20 minute “power nap”! When 7 o clock rolled around Josh and the LST group picked me up and we headed for the youth group beach ministry. After arriving an hour late the group from church cheerfully pardoned us as we tactfully blamed Josh. 😉 There were 30 or so young Brazilians in our youth group. I was immediately asked if I would like to join in their game of soccer and I excitedly obliged. I was astounded at how the Brazilians handled the ball with such finesse. It was almost artistic how they weaved the ball in and out of their legs all while sprinting to and fro. Hospitable as Brazilians are they allowed me to play offense. As soon as I recouped from the amazement, my teammate passed me the pelota. All of a sudden everything became still. A reel popped into my head illustrating how I was going to score like the Great Pele! In my mind, was a vivid movie of me brilliantly orchestrating agile maneuvers ending in a glorious GOOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!!!! When I snapped back to reality, the ball and my feet had not budged. An opposing player nimbly stole the ball from me and with it my budding aspiration of soccer stardom. In the end, I did manage to score a GOOOOOOOALLLLLL!!!!!!! No wonder soccer has such emphatic celebrations. It took me two blistered feet and 10,000 spent calories to score that goal.

When everyone was spent we all gathered in prayer. We were greeted as new members of the group and were offered a thoughtful gift. It was a miniature picture frame with the name of the beach ministry called Ministerio da Praia (Beach ministry) and this verse from 1 Peter 4, “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” There is no better way to sum up the past few days.

After such a blessed day, Josh treated us with the ideal drink to top off such a refreshing day, Agua de Coco (Coconut Water! YAAAAAY!)

YOLO with the agua de coco!

YOLO with the agua de coco!

Boa noite meus amigos. Tchau!

Gabriel

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Update from Recife

5/29 Friday

Friday morning I took a pleasant jog around the neighborhood. I promised myself that I would exercise in some fashion because I knew that my inner glutton would seize every opportunity to indulge in Brazilian food. Upon my return, I found Mike and Aureni preparing for the day. Mike was been gracious enough to make me the healthiest oatmeal complimented with a  “longo” (long-oo) which is a long drawn shot of espresso. We converse (I soak in his wisdom) before we part for the day. Aureni, the utmost caring mother that she is, offers to walk with me to Escola da Biblia to get our painting on!

Escola da Biblia

Wall outside of Escola da Biblia

Painting the nursery room with Jonathan from LST.

Painting the nursery room with Jonathan from LST.

After spending the day touching up the building, Aureni and I hailed a taxi to visit Aureni’s mother. Unfortunately our patience and my motion sickness were put to the test as we endured a longer than usual cab ride. This problem stemmed from a city wide protest of the government by the residents. At the crux of the problem was that the bus drivers refused to work which in turn prevented everyone from doing much of anything. Protest aside I viewed the cab ride as a chance to get to know more about the glowing, lovely, Aureni.

Aureni, busy upstairs!

Aureni, busy upstairs!

When we finally arrived at Aureni’s mother’s house it was so late that were only able to stay briefly. Aureni’s mother and I exchanged a few words in Portuguese and then we returned home. Josh and the LST gang, who waited ever so patiently, swung by to pick me up for dinner. The restaurant of choice was a Brazilian pizzeria where the slices are served constantly. Although the idea of an endless train of delectable pizza sounded heavenly, I managed to reserve myself to only five slices….Only.

Can you feel?

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Can you feel?

Can you feel the waves crash against the shore?

Can you feel the sand sift between your toes on a busy morning selling coconut water?

Can you feel your weight shift suddenly as you zip back and forth in traffic?

Can you feel the warmth of the people?

Can you feel how they love you so?

Can you feel that they would offer you dinner even if they had to go without the next day?

Can you feel the wind as it brushes back your hair as you hitch a ride clinging to the outside of the local bus?

Can you feel how your mind is altered from the inhalation of shoe glue to elude hunger?

Can you feel starvation plague your body like a thousand piercing needles in your stomach?

Can you feel the hunger go away when you breathe in the toxic glue?

Can you feel the sun rays gleaming upon yourself and the homeless?

Can you feel the presence of God amidst a multitude of starved people?

Can you feel the rumbling of their stomachs as we sit together on a glowing Sunday morning in the park?

Can you feel the tears well up from deep inside escaping along with perspiration from the humid climate?

Can you feel how your heart burns when a child without a home hugs you without ever knowing you?

Can you feel the love they have to give when love they have not been given?

Can you feel the longing for affirmation from desperate children who feel hopeless?

Can you feel the uncertainty of a child who does not know if they will eat again?

Can you feel the rays of light shining through the trees?

Can you feel the passion of a people who know God?

Can you feel their yearning for His presence?

Can you feel the vibrations from the room full of praise as joyous songs are sang?

Can you feel the apathy slowly crumbling away?

Can you feel the vigor that is being restored?

Can you feel the life within a once dead body?

Can you feel how Christ moves those who are immovable?

Can you feel how he heals brokenness and sorrow?

Can you feel how he sustains and promises hope for tomorrow?

If you have felt any one of these things, then truly you have felt.

This is how it feels when a heart does melt.

Lab Day!

'Sorry Professor, you're right: I DID skip a line of the instructions...'

Its lab day in my classroom and the class is ecstatic! We have prepared all week, writing balanced chemical equations, determining the most commonly formed ions, and studying ionic and covalent bonds. To begin the class I go through my usual warnings of the precautions we must take due to the dangerous nature of chemicals and on cue a student asks, “When can we make fireworks?” My eyes immediately lower towards the student and I sarcastically reply, “You have obviously missed the point of safety in the lab.” Once I dismiss my students to the lab they busily equip themselves with their goggles, lab apron, and gloves. Once all the students have been situated in their lab groups I give initial instructions and admonish them to take time observing the chemical reactions that take place.

What the students don’t understand is the amount of time it took to prepare the sixteen chemical compounds. They don’t realize that an experiment that might take them 30 minutes to complete took several hours to prepare. The reagents have to be prepared to the right concentration, all the lab equipment must be clean and neutralized, and afterward must be meticulously disposed of according to hazardous waste protocol.

Without fail, I will instruct the class to begin the experiment and in what seems like five minutes one of my students will announce, “I’m done Mr. Flores! What do I do now?” So I head over to his lab bench and say, “That was fast! So tell me, what occurred when you combined chemical A with chemical B?” I wait in eager anticipation that he will eloquently state that chemical A reacted with chemical B to form a precipitate, which indicates that a new compound has formed. Furthermore, he is just about to write down the chemical formula for the new compound as well as the correct chemical name. And he simply responds, “It changed colors.”

Now you can imagine the immediate letdown that I am experiencing from his terse response, but not to give up I ask more precisely, “Explain the chemical reaction that is taking place. With a look of consternation on his face, he replies, “Well…it turned darker.” At this point I can give up and tell him to clean up his experiment, or I can probe further and help him understand the reaction that took place. After a little more inquiry, I come to find out that he understood what happened he just needed a little time to digest what took place. I applaud his efforts and advise him to slow down a bit, almost as a father would.

Perhaps this is how God feels with us. He has devised this master plan and is teaching us daily only for us to try and rush through it all. Personally, I am eager to seek him and to learn his ways through the word, however I rush to apply his teachings without fully understanding them sometimes. When we read, pray, and carry out His will we must reflect on his teachings and their true meaning. Our Lord will give us opportunities to apply what he has taught, but these opportunities are not to be rushed. Lets take our time, and truly appreciate what God is trying to teach us. Lets take advantage of every opportunity to apply the truth and as Romans 12:2 states, “Be not conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Onesimus

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Though I have been oppressed, though I have fled from slavery, my Lord Jesus Christ has truly redeemed me. He has liberated me from my chains. My feet are swift and my arms are lifted high towards the heavens, for he has removed my shackles. By shackles, I mean more than metal. Jesus has removed the spiritual shackles that once bonded my flesh. Before, I thought the only way to escape was to flee. So I stole from my master and fled from his dominion. Once out of the way of imminent danger, I was able to rest. However, even out of the sight of danger and judgment I was not consoled. My spirit still groaned for something more. My soul longed for Jesus. It was not until I met my beloved brother Paul that I became truly free; free from the slavery in this world and the next. The gentle words that he prayed with me will be forever ingrained in my memory. Together, on our knees, we prayed,

‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to Thee,

and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said, “I will confess my

transgressions to the Lord”;

Then Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let every one who is godly offer prayer to Thee.’

Now that my spirit has been redeemed, I prepare to meet my former master, Philemon. Upon my return it is my hope that Philemon will accept me just as my Lord has accepted me with open arms. No longer as a slave, but as a beloved brother, as my brother Paul has lovingly explained to me. Whatever the outcome, my faith lies in my heavenly father. I am no longer a slave to this earth, but a beloved son in His eyes. Before my name Onesimus, meant ‘useful’ as a slave. Now that I am transformed I am ‘useful’ for the Lord. Once a lowly possession, I am now a prized treasure. To anyone that comes after me that suffers from the chains of bondage be assured that through repentance for your sins and faith in Jesus, you too will be free.

Anne “Lightning-fast” Charles

Boxing gloves hanging in dressing room

Ding, ding, ding, rung the bell to start the match. Both opponents quickly stepped forward and touched gloves. Thus began the onslaught. Anne grimaced at her opponent while nimbly dancing from left to right. Her opponent’s futile attempt to land a punch failed again, and again. Anne wasn’t worried. She was the undisputed champion of women’s boxing in the state of Georgia. Her opponents hadn’t so much as made her sweat before she began to pummel her victim with a deft combination of jabs that left them writhing on the canvas.

Her boxing technique was harmonic. When she was finally bored with toying with her opponent the lightning strikes would begin. Crack! Right jab to the ribs. ! Crack! Overhand right to the jaw. Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack! Ribs, Jaw, Jaw, Ribs, until her opponent lay lifeless. Announcer: “Victor by knockout, and still undisputed champion of Georgia, Anne” Lightning-fast” Charles!

(20 years later)

“Will I ever make it up this hill? I need to make it to the pharmacy so I can get my medication for my kidneys. I’m not strong enough to wheel myself up with my wheelchair. Maybe if I get out and use my chair for support, I can make it. I can do this”. So the woman gathered all of her might and lifted herself up out of her chair. She immediately became light headed as she stood and held on the arm of her wheelchair. “Phew! That almost took all the strength I had just to stand. How will I ever make it up this hill?” So she began her fumbling walk up the hill. Her rickety wheel chair wouldn’t stay stable enough for her to keep a straight path. As she leaned on her chair for support it would veer to the right and almost escape her grasp. After two hours of what seemed to be an eternity of walking she realized she had made no headway in her journey. It had become dark, and she had no energy left. “This is it. I give up.” And she collapsed.

As she lie on her back on the cold road she watched as the clouds began to gather from all directions and the sky turned a pale gray. She could hear the sound of thunder and soon after the flash of lighting. Crack! Went the lightning. Boom! Sounded the thunder. As she watched the storm the lightning was almost peaceful to her. She smiled and as a tear trickled down her face she thought, “’Anne ‘Lightning-fast’ Charles…How funny? I can’t even move. I guess this is it. My only defeat in my career. My only knockout. At least I get to see this beautiful storm before I go and for that I thank you Jesus. I never did believe in you. But now, I see who you are. I can see you now. Thank you for this peace”. She smiled and closed her eyes.

As she opened her eyes, Anne felt a sense of weightlessness. “I must be flying.” She thought. “The sky is pink. I never much liked pink. But it looks nice in the sky.” She awoke in a hospital bed, to an open window and a sunny sky. “I must have been rescued. It’s a miracle I didn’t die.” She chuckled, as she thought of her vain efforts to climb that hill. As she reached around looking for the button to call for something to drink she opened a drawer and in it she found a bible. She gently picked up the bible and placed it in her lap. The book fell quickly fell open to 2 Corinthians and she thought, “That was lightning fast”. Her eyes fell to verse 9 in chapter 12 and she read, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Anne was overcome by an overwhelming sense of peace and utter joy, and she wept.

Our Lives, a Soothing Aroma to the Lord

Lillies

This I’ve written as a short thought in preparation to receive Holy communion on Sunday. Comments and opinions would be greatly appreciated.

As we prepare to receive His holy communion let us go the Lord in prayer,

“Dear heavenly father,

We come before you in loving fellowship and with grateful hearts. Lord, we thank you for your ultimate sacrifice of your son Jesus and for his supreme act of love giving his life for us on the cross. Father, we humbly ask that you anoint us with your Holy Spirit as we prepare to accept the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We ask for forgiveness for our sins so that we may be washed white as snow. Father, please clear our minds from any distractions so that we may be transformed by your word this morning. All this we pray in the holy name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Let us go the word of the Lord in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5 verses 1 and 2. In this portion of this letter Paul is instructing the Ephesians how to walk in love through imitating the Lord, as a child does his beloved father. Paul urges the Ephesians to strive to be like God, not as slaves trying to earn a wage, but as his beloved children. Chapter 5 verses one and two say this,

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Christ gave himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. We are preparing to receive his fragrant offering and sacrifice as the supreme act of love and atonement for our sins. Paul’s description of Christ’s sacrifice as a fragrant offering finds meaning in Matthew’s account of Mary Magdalene’s anointing of Jesus. In Matthew chapter 26 verses 6 through 13 Matthew recalls Jesus’ anointing at Bethany.

“Now when Jesus was at “Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at the table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste” For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.

This anointing is one of numerous scripture appealing to our sense of smell. In this account Jesus was anointed with an extremely expensive perfume as an offering of love. The bible often describes offerings as soothing aromas to the Lord. Perhaps this is what Paul means when he calls us to give ourselves up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. No matter the cost, our dedication to the Lord should serve as an utter display of our love for Him. Let us live our lives in a way that pleases the Lord as the sweetest fragrance and most soothing aroma.

Let us pray,

“Dear heavenly father, we thank you for the forgiveness of our sins. We thank you for the blessing of Life. Help us to live our lives in a way that surrounds you with the sweetest fragrance. We pray that our actions align with your perfect will. We strive to walk in love, offering our lives as a fragrant offering just as Christ Jesus did for us. We are your beloved children, and we yearn to be just like you. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

(Communion offering)

“We thank you for the sacrifice of your son Jesus. Your grace fills us with a refreshing aroma of pure love. Imbue our lives with your sweet aroma so that we may be led by your perfectly pleasing will. Father, let the fragrance of our lives be as sweet as a bouquet of flowers to others so that we may attract others to you. All this we pray in love and reverence for you, amen.”