Kleber 2001 Prayer and Praise Archive

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2001 Archive


Name: debk
Date: Wed Apr 11 17:10:37 2001
(1) A good friend for Drexel; (2) A renter for our Seattle home; (3) The visas are ready on time; (4) Habitat will provide health insurance; (5) Safe/sane travel for everyone, including the cat; (6) Our language skills; (7) God's blessings and grace on all the preparations and the work to be done in Braga.
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Name: Jord
Date: Thu May 3 06:44:50 2001
Thank you for praying for us! We have been so blessed by all the encouragement and support we´ve received from so many people. I´m in Braga now, so please pray for my language skills. Pray that I make time to study and that God gives me ears to hear and understand Portuguese. Please pray for the work here and my management of it. Pray for the encouragement of all the staff and for the volunteers, 32 of whom arrive May 25. Pray that God will raise up people to supervise the volunteers June 4-June 13 while I am in Seattle for Austin´s graduation. Pray for enthusiastic participation by the families for whom the houses are being built and by the larger community. Everyone is discouraged because the project has taken much longer than anticipated and now it has been raining--slowing the work further--relentlessly for months and months. Pray that God would raise up many people here to pray for the work. Please pray for our family: I will be here without Debbie, Austin and Drex May 1-June 6, and it is very difficult to be apart. Debbie took a nasty fall down the stairs the day after I left--it sounds like she´s pretty sore--and her hard drive died, so there´s no computer for now. Also, the folks who were going to rent our house backed out, so please ask God to supply new renters. Again, thank you for your prayers. It is wonderful to know that you are interceding for us and that we can cast all our cares upon Him, knowing that He cares for us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sat May 5 13:49:32 2001
Praise God for a good, good day at the jobsite! Thank you so much for your prayers. Saturday is the day the families for whom the 12 homes in Palmeira (pronounced pal MY da) are being built come to work. Last week 3 homeowners came, today there were 10-15! Please continue to pray that the homeowner´s hopes will be renewed and that their participation in the work increases. Pray that all the families participate every week. Pray that they grow together as a community. Pray that they put their hope and trust in God. We also had six really wonderful volunteers today from local universities who put up insulation and hung drywall, though most of them had never done it before. They did a great job. Pray for an enormous outpouring of interest and participation from young people like them, especially among Catholics. I think some here perceive Habitat to be a protestant organization. But we want to build houses and hope in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is something that Protestants and Catholics can agree upon and pray for together. I hear there has been recent discussion between Habitat folks and leaders in the Catholic church, soliciting prayer and endorsement. Pray that those discussions bear much fruit, please. As we drove to the jobsite this morning--a beautiful sunny morning, with roses blooming everywhere--we passed a priest, and he smiled and waved. Pray that the days and weeks to come bring many smiles and much warmth from the priests, the people and from God. But the outpouring of participation must come, if we are to finish the project this summer. We are far from finished, and everyone had hoped to have the families in last Christmas! Please pray, too, for the person or people that are stealing our tools. A lot of valuable equipment has been taken and this is disheartening to everyone. We know that Satan would love to undermine any way he can work being done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but God by His Spirit can turn the hearts of the thieves back towards Himself. Pray that He does so and that the tools are returned. Today was a good day, too, for my language skills. I had to practice a lot, and had fun drawing vocabulary words on the drywall and asking the college students, "O que é isso?" "What is this?" And then writing the words in Portuguese. Now I can practice vocab whenever I return to those rooms. Finally, pray for my ability to remember names. Even if I don´t understand another word a person uses, if I can remember their name, I know their favorite sound in the world. It´s an easy way to be a blessing, but Portuguese names are, not surprisingly, more difficult for me to remember. Again, I cannot thank you enough for your prayers. God has already begun to answer, but this work is much bigger than we are and apart from Him, we can´t do a thing.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun May 13 03:23:50 2001
Well, yesterday, Saturday, was another fun, fun day of working with the families on their houses. During the week, after meeting with the architect and everyone else involved, we decided to make major changes to the floorplan of the houses in the third four unit building. (The project consists of three buildings of four units each. Buildings one and two consist of three bedroom units, building three has two bedroom units). The decision to remodel was a response to complaints about the original floorplan by the homeowners themselves. It involves a significant amount of extra work for everyone at a time when the project is well beyond its scheduled finish, and all for the benefit of the four smallest households--only six out of about forty people. So we might reasonably have heard some grumbling. But there was none of it! The families--who were, praise God, out in force--threw themselves into the additional work with relish! There was complete consensus that the changes were "mais melhor," much better. I did not see or hear a single negative sentiment, even though it poured rain on us all afternoon. I´m told that a year ago, when these people--mostly strangers to one another--were brought together, they hardly spoke at all. On Friday night, at their regular community meeting (which ran from nine until eleven pm, a full hour past my bedtime), and again at work on Saturday, they laughed and played and argued and accomplished much. They obviously have grown to care for one another. May God bless them with a powerful sense of His great care and affection and sacrifice for them, even as they learn to care and sacrifice for one another. The work day concluded with "uma grande festa," a birthday party for volunteer Ron Tracy, who turns fifty-four today. Please pray for Ron. He is an extremely extraordinary character, and it has been an enormous privilege for me to work with him this month before he departs for Angola, where I expect God will use him in big ways, building and sharing the gospel. Ron came to Portugal from his home in Coyle, Oklahoma, in order to learn Portuguese before pressing on to Angola. Having heard about Habitat, he came to Braga for "a couple of days," last December in order to see the work here. Because of various transitions in personnel, Ron was literally "handed the keys," to the project, and he has carried it until now. On the construction continuum, I come from the small end. In order to enlarge my vision, God gave me Ron, who comes from the big end. Ron is lining up funding to build houses, schools, a power plant, a prosthetics facility, and a canal in Luwanda. I feel like Elisha when he said to Elijah, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me, before you are taken from me," (2 Kings 2:9). So, may the Lord bless Ron, today on his birthday and in the days to come as Ron follows Him into Africa. And please pray for Ron´s discussions with his wife, Jan, as they are working out very difficult issues regarding whether she will accompany him to Africa. Now I´m off to church, the wonderful tiny little Baptist church where we already have so many friends. God has richly blessed us there since the first day we set foot in the door last summer. Please pray for us with respect to how we divide our time in church. I´m told that there are Catholic priests preaching the gospel in Braga and I want very much to share the gospel with Catholics myself. I became a Christian in college largely through the ministrations of Father Martin Diaz and Blessed Sacrement Catholic Church, so I am anxious to be an instrument of God to sew faith among people of all denominations. Thank you, thank you for your prayers. We´ll find out in Glory what the effect of all this praying has been, and I expect that the reckoning will be beyond our imaginations. May the Lord lavish His love and care and blessing upon you, even as you have lavished your care upon us!
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Name: austin
Date: Sun May 13 23:10:56 2001
In the midst of all the amazing things God's doing for Da (much praise for that!), I'd like to ask for His help as I finish up my last three weeks of school and my last five in Seattle. I'm scared of not finishing everything before I leave, and when that happens I tend to get overwhelmed and not do anything at all. I've got quite a few things to organize (end of year activities, and summer/next year's plans, etc.) plus three AP tests in the next week. I'd especially like prayer for those, 'cause I've learned the stuff, it's just a matter of remembering it at the right time. Thanks.
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Name: debk
Date: Tue May 15 22:37:35 2001
Thanks for your faithful prayers... the house is rented! (And to a family, which is an answer to another prayer.) Unfortunately, Drex is really missing his Dad and has times when he acts like most of us do when we are sad: listless, weepy, fatigued. On the other hand, praise God, he is getting excited about the move to Portugal. Please keep Drex in your prayers. Again, many heartfelt thanks for all the love and support.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun May 20 10:28:54 2001
Well, yesterday was a challenging day with the volunteers and homeowners, and it was only a small foretaste of what´s coming this week. This is a strange sort of building, hardly knowing who might show up on any given day and needing to make the most of a wide, wide range of skills. But the people have great hearts! The volunteers and especially the homeowners. I had arranged to be picked up late at the jobsite yesterday and so was straightening up as I waited until it became clear that one of the homeowners, Sr. Mota, a man whose heart fills the entire capacity of his powerful chest, was not going to let me stay alone. He walked around with me, telling me his plans for the new homes, how beautiful they are going to be, and how dilapidated is his present home. Finally, he loaded me on his motorcycle (or mota), and took me to a café where I could rest while I waited. I continue to be blessed, encouraged and thankful for the counsel of Ron Tracy, missionary on his way to Angola, who has thirty years of experience building churches with volunteers. He has had a lot to say about the importance of making sure that everyone who comes to help feels great about their contribution, even if productivity suffers somewhat. Please pray that God shows me that balance between ministering to the volunteers and making progress on the project. Praise God that He has given us all--you and me--great encouragement and confidence in Christ (Romans 15:5), for us to lay hold of by faith. Pray that I and the rest of the staff partake fully of the Holy Spirit as the volunteer season kicks into high gear. Please pray, too, for the protection of my family-time this summer. Habitat work will want to gobble up every spare moment, with full days on the jobsite, meetings that don´t begin until 9 pm in Portugal, and opportunities to build relationships with volunteers from all over the world. Please pray that God raises someone up to manage the jobsite while I am absent from June 4-14, home for Austin´s graduation and to bring the family here. This will be a great opportunity to see the Lord´s provision, as it is a very serious need. There will be many volunteers on the job during those days and they cannot be left unsupervised. Please pray for my translator, Pedro Rodrigues. He is a super-duper guy who suffers horribly from allergies, especially during this time of year. His eyes swell completely shut. Pray that God heals Pedro completely of his allergies. In fact, let´s pray now: Father, we know that You are the One Who heals our maladies (Psalm 103:3), and that Your arm is not too short to reach down and touch Pedro´s eyes and sinuses and chest and whole body and clean him and make him well (if You want to make him stop smoking and eating horribly it probably wouldn´t do any harm, either), but most of all we pray that You would touch his heart and grant him the repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18), that Pedro might know You and Your Son Jesus Christ, and through Him have eternal life! We pray in Jesus Name, amen. Very good! Let´s persist in prayer together for Pedro (Luke 18), shall we? Please pray also for a replacement for him, as he is intending to leave Habitat soon. Hallelujah that we can lift of our voices together and pray to God as one! Thank you again for your prayers. Please let us know how we can pray for you. We love to pray and boy, does it ever do us good!! Deus te abençoe (God bless you). Um abraço (a hug).
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun May 27 11:10:13 2001
In response to your prayers, God gave my translator Pedro Rodrigues a great week with respect to his allergies. Pedro and I also had some good conversation about spiritual things. Please continue to pray for Pedro´s health, that God would miraculously erradicate his allergies, and that He would also remove the "blinders" (2 Corinthians 4:4) from Pedro´s mind so that he might "see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God." Also in response to your prayers, God worked in Ron Tracy´s heart and in his itinerary, so that Ron offered to remain in Braga and supervise the project while I am in Seattle. Praise Him! And thank you! You had a great week of prayer! Speaking of Ron, did I ever tell you the story about how Ron built the church in Gun Barrell City, Texas? One Saturday, he hung (hanged?) 462 twelve foot sheets of drywall with a crew of 13 men, the youngest of whom was 69 and two of whom carried oxygen in a bottle. Ron had them line the sheets up down the hall approximately where they would go and he went from piece to piece, measuring, cutting and tacking it to the wall with the men´s help. Then he´d move on to the next sheet while the other fellas finished the nailing. They finished at 2 p.m. and all the other fellas went home, tired. One of the church ladies brought Ron a 15 piece bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, with mashed potatoes and corn, which he polished off in no time, (if you ask Ron about food he will always say, "I´m starving to death. I feel like I haven´t eaten all day!), sitting on the floor of the auditorium, which was the only part of the church still without sheetrock. Refueled, Ron thought to himself, "I could do this auditorium myself," which he proceeded to do, hanging 67 more sheets before 8 pm, when the pastor found him, still sitting on the floor, and took him out to an all-you-can-eat restaurant where Ron ate catfish until 11 before going home to shower and sleep. I would not have believed this story, nor that there is a place called Gun Barrell City, Texas, except that Ron showed me the copy of Oswald Chambers´ My Utmost for His Highest autographed by everyone from the church. Back here in Braga, the volunteers have arrived in force. We had about 40 people working on site yesterday, 17 of whom are students from a Swiss internationl high school. It was a circus, but we got a lot accomplished. Please pray that God touches the hearts of these volunteers and that those who don´t know Him--I know of two Christians so far--will turn to Him and put their trust in Him in response to our witness. One of those Christians, a 16 yr old Swiss girl named Romy (rhymns with Tommy) has been a believer for 1 1/2 yrs and is interested in working with an organization like Habitat after she finishes school. Please pray for Romy and for the other Christian, Naoko, a teacher/chaperone, that God would "let their light shine before men in such a way that they may see their good works, and glorify our Father Who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16). Thank you for your prayers for me and our family. I have been enjoying a powerful sense of being at home with God my dwelling place (Psalms 90:1), and that home is where He has us and that that is in Portugal right now, if all of that makes any sense. I believe the whole family is excited about being together here at home. I am learning and growing so much. So many assumptions and supports are being questioned or have been removed, but as I have built my house upon the Rock, the taking away of everything but the sure foundation shall not prevail against it (Matthew 7:25).
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jun 17 15:08:58 2001
Suddenly I have a new appreciation for those interminable lists of names in the Old Testament. Three teams of volunteers--one each from Switzerland, the U.S. and the U.K.--have come and gone and now I have my own list of people God has made dear to me: Akira, Aleke, Astrad, Romy, Ken, Bill, Rupoli, Ceil, Brendan, Hillary, Naoko, Jenna, Mary, Don and Alice Steiner, Jason, Tony, Pete, Mark, Vicki, Nicola, Lisa, and Ruth, to name a few. I imagine that when God reads those Old Testament lists each name brings to Mind a person He dearly loves and misses. I feel that, in miniature. I am praying for the salvation of everyone who sets foot on our jobsite. Will you please pray with me? On the home front, an unexpected blessing has been the fun of setting up house, nearly from scratch. It has reminded me of when Debbie and I first did it back in college, except that now we are much better at working together and serving and encouraging each other. It also makes me think about the things we do to get properly oriented. I think the blessed sense I have had here in Braga of being at home with God, or in God, could be described as being properly oriented. But along with remembering the truth of who we are in Him, there are lots of other things we do to contribute to a sense of being properly oriented, so that we can serve God with confidence and gladness: find a place for everything, find out which direction is north, find a church and make some acquaintances, are examples. Having been here for over a month I have a big headstart on the rest of the family. Drex is at the other end of the continuum. Without a good grasp of all the good reasons for moving to the other side of the world he is ill-equipped to orient himself. He remains disoriented. He is up half the night, asleep half the day and he misses his friends. Please continue to pray that God will Orient him and make him at home. Pray that God Himself would be Drex´s home (Psalm 90:1). There have already been several blessings towards that end, and we thank God for them: 1) Drex has met two young boys from church who greeted him with exuberant kisses--the Portuguese are voluminous kissers--as well as offers of balls and bikes. 2) Drex and I have been using the playcourt at a school nearby that turned out to be a home for boys, ages five to nineteen. Now, whenever we arrive with our arms full of esoteric sporting equipment like flying discs and basketballs the boys pour out to play, and they are spectacularly friendly and solicitous of Drex. Now that we all have a new appreciation for lists of names, here are some of theirs, so that you can pray: Nuno, George, Jon Victor, José Joquim, Lucio, Antonio, Andre, Abelio, Paulo, and David. These are really wonderful kids, and I´m guessing their lives have not exactly been crammed full of affection. They may be sitting ducks for the love of God through Jesus Christ. 3) We met today the smiling five year old boy in the apartment next door, Alexandro (pronounced al SHAN ddroo[sic]). Drex had eagerly awaited this meeting, and was delighted. Please pray God´s blessing upon their friendship. While you´re on your knees, please also pray for an enormous outpouring of local support for Habitat and for the progress of the buildings. Thank you. Praying IS the work. It´s what makes things happen (Mark 9:29). Thank you so much for co-laboring with us and with God. We love you. May God richly bless you for your kindness to us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jun 24 12:47:58 2001
Senior Lopes, a graying, energetic plumber from Palmeira, clearly wants to help Habitat. We called him Friday to ask if he would complete the new drain system in one of the four kitchens we´ve changed so that we can copy it in the remaining three. He arrived shortly after lunch. João Paulo and Pedro, cousins and local high school students who have begun volunteering regularly, helped me with translation so that I could ask questions and sort out some of the differences between American and Portuguese plumbing. After demonstrating several connections and describing the layout, Sr. Lopes handed João Paulo the tools and told him to finish. Surprised but excited, João Paulo, with Pedro and Sr. Lopes assisting, assembled the pipe. #Building houses is only a small part of what Habitat for Humanity does. The larger work of Habitat is the work of making connections. Connections between people. Connections between generations. Connections between countries. Connections between the children of God and His love. #Sr. Lopes looked at me and smiled as João Paulo and Pedro put the finishing twists on the pipe. "João Paulo," he said, though he had met him only minutes earlier, "should we do one more before I go?" The young men completed the next kitchen almost entirely themselves, with Sr. Lopes only interceding when they needed a fifth hand or ran into complications. With a wave of his hand he loaned them his tools to complete the two remaining kitchens. He smiled again as he shook everyone´s hand and left. #The Habitat vision of eliminating poverty housing from the world will only be realized as the connections grow. It is far too big a vision for one person, or one generation or one country. But it is not too big for God: "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27). Please pray that God will continue to make connections here in Braga and that the work of connnecting people to His love will increase. #This weekend is the Festival of St. John the Baptist in Braga. According to tradition, deriving perhaps from the particular significance of St. John´s head, the Portuguese go about during the Festival bopping one another on the pate. Consequently, for centuries the Festival of St. John was one of the leading causes of hospitalization in Braga, (I am making that up), that is, until the invention of the plastic squeeky hammer. Now you can buy a plastic squeeky hammer on any corner during the Festival. The languid night air squeeks with bopping well into the early morning hours. There is a wonderful egalitarianism to the bopping. Children and poor men take special delight in bopping those who bop them in other ways the rest of the year, and their oppressors receive it cheerfully. Needless to say, Drex was delighted to part with 300 of his own escudos in exchange for the privilege of bopping his parents and sister. He is still a little reluctant to bop strangers, though he himself is a very popular target, being, at his present height, in almost everyone´s strike zone. Please pray that Drex continues to warm to Braga and all the things here that are new to him. #Debbie´s back has been bothering her since she over- taxed it during the move, and sore backs can be disheartening. Please pray for her complete recovery and for her encouragement. She feels Drex´s struggles with his unfamiliar circumstances very poiniantly (I never said I could spell), and she needs God´s encouragement to encourage Drex. Please pray, too, for Austin´s integration. She has lots of running around to do and lots of Portuguese to speak in order to get herself set up here for the summer and at the University of Coimbra in the fall. Pray that God will break through the freneticism of her many transitions and be especially present to her. Finally for this week, would you please pray regarding what we will do at the end of my one year contract with Habitat. For the long-term well-being of the local Habitat affiliate, a local Portuguese person should be serving as construction manager, so it would be in everyone´s best interests for me to be out of a job. But we would prefer not to move again in twelve months. "O, Lord, what shall we do? You know, Lord. Thank you that we can trust in You." #Thank you, too, again and again for your prayers and your love. I say it again, thank you.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jul 1 17:05:09 2001
Drex is playing in the other room with André, a five year old whose parents are working on an upstairs apartment. It isn't clear yet, owing to certain linguistic obstacles, whether they live or will live there, or not. A couple of months from now I expect that interactions like these will be much easier for everyone in the family, but right now, after two weeks of being a family in Braga, the simplest conversations remain a challenge for us. There are still times when I feel as if I "compreende nada," to quote the man who installed our telephone. But I am making slow progress. And it is fun. When I speak Portuguese I feel like an actor, playing a different role, making exotic, more visceral noises. Portuguese is very earthy. As for Drex, he also met two other five year old boys this week who definitely do live nearby, Alshandro and Miguel. He is now a regular at the Foundation School, which is housed in the church we're attending, and he is slowly warming to things there. He and I continue to enjoy the company of the fellas at the home for boys down the block where we play in the evening. Thank you for praying for his assimilation. Please don't stop. #Austin begins Portuguese classes at the University of Minho tommorrow morning. Please pray that the classes are a blessing and that she forms fruitful, encouraging friendships (it wouldn't hurt ME if she recruited some Habitat volunteers, too). Austin has been a real blessing and help to me on the jobsite on Saturdays, when the families are there, and she gets to practice Portuguese. #With Drex settling in at school, Debbie is beginning to lay plans for what she'll do while he's there. Volunteering at the Habitat office, classes at the Univ of Minho and other language classes are some of the alternatives. Praise the Lord that He promises to direct her steps (Prov 3:6, 20:24)! Thank you for praying for her back. It seems to be much better, though I think she has a high pain threshold, so we don't hear much unless she gets real uncomfortable. #The building with Habitat is going exceedingly well. The volunteers are a great big amazing blessing. There are enough language and construction challenges to keep the building interesting, and to keep me clinging to God (Psalm 63:8). What we still lack is the outpouring of local involvement and support. We know that it is God Who causes any undertaking to thrive (Psalm 75:6-7) and bear fruit. Please pray that He will destroy any barriers that divide us (Ephesians 2:14) from the people of this community and that Braga will receive Habitat as its own, as a fabulous investment opportunity (Proverbs 19:17). In the ongoing round of minor aches and pains that go along with physical labor, I have a new funky right elbow ailment. It feels as if I banged it hard, though I don't think I have. It is a very minor thing, but I believe God loves it when we pray (Proverbs 15:8) and when we ask Him for things (James 4:2), and it is fun and faith-building to see Him answer prayer (Psalm 5:3), so would you please ask Him to heal my elbow? Thank you. It is a blessing to partner with you in this work. One way I console myself about moving away from dear friends is to think of it as an expansion of our parnership together. May God bless you where you are and make your work on His behalf fruitful.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jul 8 07:50:57 2001
Saturday, 7/7/01, Braga. #On the horizon, the sun rises over the verdant, storied Portuguese countryside where images ancient and modern assume a sometimes strident symbiosis. Everywhere cranes rise up through the mist. Portuguese men, at least those in construction, which is most of them at the moment, love cranes and equate them with virility. Sensitive people regard them as agents of destruction, like figureheads on the prows of marauding ships. #An unanticipated expense of living in Portugal will be washing the car, perhaps as often as four times a week. Just as people in cold climates sometimes must go to unusual lengths to get into their vehicles because of snow, here on the lovely, tree-lined Rua da Damão, one must occasionally go to extraordinary lengths to get into one’s car owing to bird poop. Often, the little red Renault we bought for 100,000 escudos (about $500) is completely submerged. The first time it happened, I thought it HAD snowed. That would have been nice. #It has been a great week. Austin began Portuguese classes at the University of Minho, here in Braga, on Monday and has had a wonderful time making new friends from all over the world, and practicing a little Portuguese, too. She’s sick today, though. Would you please pray that she is well soon, and that the classes prepare her well for the University of Coimbra in the fall. #(Speaking of praying for our infirmities, my elbow is better but still funky. It’s a strange sort of musculo-skeletal discomfort; again, as if I really clobbered it, which I didn’t. Also, I think Debbie had a pretty good back week. Thank you for praying). #Drex seems to be making great progress with his acculturation. Debbie was shocked, as was his teacher Suzanna, when he decided to participate in an all day field trip on Friday. He has been very shy and retiring. But he had a wonderful time and explained that he and a girl in a yellow dress held hands all day. He seems to be gaining confidence as he makes headway against the challenges of his new life. Today, while taking a shower together and shampooing, we were trying to think of the Portuguese word for hair (o cabelo). He explained that, "We really need to find the feminine form for it, or something." #You should see the two of us with the fellas at St. José, the home for boys down the block where we play in the evening. It is a circus. Tonight we took the aerobie (a flying ring, similar to a frisbee), the basketball, tennis rackets and balls, and, for the first time, the American football. The play area is relatively small and we had things flying and people running in every direction. I don’t know if the boys have ever used some of this stuff before, but they seem to love it. And all of this goes on with simultaneous intensive Portuguese and English lessons. Only God knows how much of the gospel these guys have picked up from their religious environment, but all of us are on the faith continuum, or the path of faith, somewhere, and my goal is to encourage everyone I meet along that path as much as I’m able. Please pray for the boys, "That the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened in order that they may know the hope to which God has called them, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe," (Ephesians 1:18-19). The Good Shepherd has called each of them—Jorge, Nuno, Abilio, Paulo, Carlos, Alsino, Antonio, André, David, Eldon, Jaime, Ilidio, Roberto, Jon Victor, João, José Joquim, Lucio, Jaera—by name (John 10:3- 4). Pray that they recognize His voice and follow Him. #What a week at the jobsite! God orchestrated things beautifully. We had no Global Village volunteer teams scheduled between Monday and Saturday—a perfect time to tear up the jobsite and install the sewer system. After many months of pressing the local water company, Agere, to come do the work, there they were, very suddenly, at 8 Monday morning. On Thursday a guy from Agere, José Monteiro, who had heard there was an American on the site, came out. José is from Braga, but he spent seven years in Philadelphia, and he loves America, and "has it in his heart," he said, gently patting his chest. It was great fun to talk with him. #It was also great fun Friday to meet with our executive director, Marta Pego, and talk over the Recommendations of the Habitat for Humanity Task Force on Simple, Decent, Affordable Housing. We talked about the houses Habitat is building in Eastern Europe, further east, and in Western Europe, and what we can do better here in Braga in order to work towards the Task Force goal of "building simpler and less expensive houses for increasingly lower-income families." I felt as if we were in the War Room at the Pentagon, discussing things that matter, not just to countries, but to God (Jeremiah 22:16). What a privilege to be a part of that dialogue! And we have you to thank for it! Your prayers, your encouragement, your support are a big part of how God sustains us. #A new Global Village team—Allan, Shirley, Seth, Jim, Elizabeth, Andy, Emily, Mike, Chris, Dan, Sandy, Jennifer and Sarah—arrived yesterday from various places in the U.S., and put in their first day on the jobsite today. They were great! As I said to them this morning, my prayer for them is that God will bless them this week "immeasurably more than all they ask or imagine," (Ephesians 3:20). Please pray with me. Much of our energy will be directed towards sprucing the place up and getting one of the three four-unit buildings completely finished for the visit in early August of Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio. He is coming in response to a challenge issued by former president Jimmy Carter to all the heads of state where Habitat builds to participate in what is being called "World Leader’s Build." Please pray that God is glorified in the preparations and in the event. #Finally, please continue to pray that I will wisely apportion my time according to God’s priorities. As anticipated, Habitat stuff wants to gobble up all of my time and it is tempting to allow it to do so. Debbie and I did a little better this week at keeping our nightly appointment with each other, but we could hardly do worse than we had been doing. Please pray that God builds up our family and draws us closer to one another and closer to Him! (Psalm 33:20-22). #Thank you for your faithfulness towards us. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Our love to all of you in Christ Jesus.
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Name: Jord
Date: Tue Jul 17 13:42:27 2001
This week, the girl in the yellow dress has a name. Her name is Beatriz, and if I’m remembering correctly the way little hearts work, she may have a permanent place in Drex’s (see last week’s update). #Sunday, when we arrived home from lunch with friends from church, 5 yr old Alexandro was hanging out his window in the apartment next door. He and Drex played with cars and dinosaurs for two hours. Like the changing of the guard, when Alexandro’s older brother Luis came to take him home, 5 yr old André ambled down from his upstairs apartment for two hours of nerf basketball and pillow fighting. "That was soo good for my Portuguese!" Drex declared afterwards. Would it be possible for God to bless Drex with friends the way He did in Seattle? Do you think that would be overdoing it on His part? Thank you for your prayers for Drex. #Speaking of lavish treatment, on Tuesday we had dinner at the home of a family we know from church, Jonatas and Carla Pego, despite the fact that Carla might have given birth to Rebecca (Four ultrasounds are standard here and it is customary to refer to unborn babies as if they are as present as anyone else, i.e., "Shall I leave the leftover fruit salad with you? Rebecca will love it.") between dinner and dessert. (We’re still waiting). Years ago, when Jonatas, now a biologist at the nearby University of Minho, wanted to declare his affection for Carla, he sent one hundred roses. When he asked her to marry him he did it with two hundred roses and a song he’d written entitled, "Many Are the Roses, but Only One is My Flower." At the wedding, the ceremony went as planned until Jonatas unexpectedly crossed the stage, produced a guitar and began singing, "Many Are the Roses," again, as seven friends paraded in, each carrying one hundred roses, and laid them at Carla’s feet. We saw photographs of this wall of flowers. Carla could not look at Jonatas, whose tenderness towards her takes on greater significance when one considers that Carla’s first love, a seminary student she was engaged to at twenty, died in a car accident before her eyes. The whole story reminds me of Someone Else who bestows upon us, "a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair," (Isaiah 61:3). Thankfully, when their first child, Lucas, was born, Jonatas switched to sunflowers (one at the hospital, seventy more waiting at home). #At the jobsite, João Paulo, the local high school student who you’ve heard about here before, continues to be a great blessing. He comes most days and brings friends. The first was his cousin Pedro, who comes as often as he does, and now there’s Pedro’s cousin Wilson, a strapping sixteen year old with the energy and eagerness of three ordinary volunteers. These guys are doing everything. (João Paulo even helped tracked down our car this week when it got towed, with the help of his father, a policeman). They are answers to prayer and the future of Habitat here in Braga. Please pray that God will raise up many more like them, young people who want to serve Him by serving the poor. #Pray, too, for the building project itself. Our executive director, Marta Pego, is feeling tremendous pressure from local supporters to have the first building finished in time for the World Leader’s Build in early August. That would require a series of miracles, but certainly nothing too difficult for God, Who has a very Personal interest in getting the families settled (Isaiah 25:4). #I think my elbow problem is tennis elbow, which carpenters get all the time. I’ve switched to using my left hand, which feels just like switching to speaking Portuguese. There are moments when it works and feels completely natural, and other moments of comical awkwardness. #Finally but of greatest importance by far, please pray for revival in northern Portugal. On Friday Austin and I joined others at church in praying through the night in preparation for an evangelistic outreach coming the first week of August that will involve young people from Holland who will perform dramas relating to the gospel and then talk with people about Jesus Christ. "You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord have created it." (Isaiah 45:8). #We are so thankful to God for you, for your partnership, your prayers, your encouragement and your love. May the Lord of Hosts, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, lavish His blessings upon you this week, as He has upon us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jul 22 13:45:54 2001
Back in the days when I would occasionally participate (I do not say run) in the Seattle Marathon, I would come to the point in the "race" where I was without resources. I was exhausted. And I would think to myself, "Now it gets interesting." Everyone is fine while there are resources in reserve. Until our own resources are exhausted it’s just the Jordan show, or the John show, or the Scott show, us showing each other what we’ve got. But in the race of faith (2 Timothy 4:7), as in the Seattle Marathon, things get interesting when our resources are gone. Then it’s up to God. It’s God or it’s over. This is why it is very difficult for us rich people, us capable people, to get into heaven (Matthew 19:23-24). Unless something extraordinary happens (Matthew 19:26), we have no need for God. No one comes to Christ until his own resources are exhausted. It’s more convenient to meet one’s own needs, as long as one is able, than to have to keep accounts with Another. Exhaustion, therefore, is a prerequisite for salvation and for the ongoing life of faith (2 Corinthians 12:10). God reminds us of this necessity with manna. The Israelites had to collect it daily in the desert (Exodus 16:31). We have to partake continually of "the living bread that came down from heaven," or die (John 6:49-51). # I am exhausted. Andrea Rosario, the gifted Habitat Volunteer coordinator, announced that she will begin a new job at the University of Minho immediately. That means we have five more Global Village teams on their way and no one to help them navigate either Portuguese or Habitat culture. Additionally, hordes of Portuguese volunteers may—or may not—show up for the World Leader’s Build when the President comes in two and a half weeks. Andrea would have been both the point person for those volunteers and the primary source of experienced friends to help supervise them. Pedro Rodrigues, the equally gifted translator/construction assistant that I have mentioned here before, will be leaving very soon. Until a replacement for Pedro is found, his departure will have the same effect on our building that removing the air from one tire has on an automobile. Habitat is not catching on in Braga. We have very little church and local support. At times I’m tempted to despair of my language learning. Debbie had a difficult day with her back. Drex is swollen with bug bites.(1) Austin spent the weekend with a friend and gave us a melancholy foretaste of the new composition of our family. The car wouldn’t start. The toilet runs continually. The kitchen plumbing trap gets siphoned out when the people upstairs flush their toilet and the apartment fills with sewer gas. # To top it all off, I’m suffering from a condition that all the books about overseas living predict. They say a time will come, after an initial "honeymoon" period during which cultural differences seem quaint, when some of those cultural differences become odious. Months ago, I accepted with equanimity the fact that virtually all the places for me to play ball with Drex are paved. But I am having a very difficult time reconciling myself to the fact that they are also LOCKED, so that we can’t play on them AT ALL. We are relegated to playing catch on the sidewalk in front of the apartment, with the ball continually bouncing into traffic, instead of on the "campo" at the elementary school across the street. In my head, I’m composing a letter to the editor in which I refer to this situation as a disgrace to the city. Just wait until I have a chance to translate it!(2) To make sidewalk matters worse, dogs are not "curbed." In my head, I’m composing a speech to one of my neighbors in which I explain that his dogs left this fecal matter while they were out and I have taken it upon myself to return it. I’m still missing a couple of Portuguese words for that one, too. # Finally, I am guilty of taking my friends for granted. I have friends in America that are like pajamas. Here, the best friends I have are tweed jackets. And the situation is not likely to improve soon. When the opportunity arose to meet our neighbor, five year old Alexandro, and his father at a nearby playground, I wanted to flee in terror at the prospect of having to make Portuguese conversation. A great book I read called, "Breaking the Language Barrier" told me that I could look forward to actually having different "selves," different personalities, in all the different languages I learn to speak. I realized this morning with bitter irony that the "self" I have in Portuguese may turn out to be a laconic recluse. # I am not complaining. (Technically, I’m whining). This is why I wanted to come. I’ve likened our move to an extreme spiritual sport, and here I am, flirting with disaster. I have to cling to God (Psalm 63:8). I have drawn tremendous courage, throughout this undertaking, from the chorus taken from Psalm 18: "I will call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies." My enemies are fear and despair. "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock and let the God of my salvation be exalted. The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock and let the God of my salvation be exalted." These days, I’m singing it often, and loudly. # Thank you for your prayers. * * * * * (1) I’m being a little rhetorical here, Mom. He just has one pretty big one on his wrist and a couple of small ones. (2) There is great irony here, as elsewhere, in that had it not been for the locking of all the play areas proximate to our home, we would never have wandered up the block to the São José home for boys where we have made so many good friends.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Jul 30 16:56:00 2001
"What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear, What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh, what peace we often forfeit; O, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." What courage music and song brings in times of difficulty. It’s been a busy week on the jobsite. We have a Global Village team of sixteen from the U.S., another team of sixteen volunteers from the nearby town of Barcelos, and an assortment of other local volunteers. The World Leaders Build begins this Saturday, August 4, and promises to bring lots of excitement. Please pray for our planning, that we have plenty of bilingual team leaders and plenty of work laid out for the volunteers. I’ll spend the first part of the week running down materials to keep everyone employed. One of the difficulties of this work is that teams of volunteers tend to leave just about the time they hit their stride on the jobsite, to be replaced by other faithful, eager people with whom we often have to begin from scratch, introducing them to building. Such a transition will take place this week, with all thirty-two of the out-of- towners leaving Thursday, and a new Global Village team arriving Saturday, the day the World Leader’s Build begins. Please pray, that in the midst of all this activity the Living Water will be in me a spring, welling up to eternal life, that I may not thirst, and that all of those with whom I come in contact may drink also (John 4:13-14). Pray, too, that I will do everything I can to direct attention towards Jesus Christ, in order that He may receive all glory and honor and praise. . . . At about this point in the update Sunday evening, I was interrupted by a ring at the door, which turned out to be Luis, sixteen year old brother of Drex’s friend Alexandro, here to retrieve Alexandro so that his extended family could sing him Happy Birthday and serve him his (Sixth) birthday cake. Luis invited Drex and me to join them (Debbie and Austin were out) and because tactfully refusing an invitation is hundreds of miles down the Portuguese language road for me, I had no choice but to accept. And so I perspired and spoke incoherently at the end of the table while being served mountains of food, especially dessert, and while Alexandro’s uncles and aunts and cousins and grandfather and great- grandmother and friends vociferously and amicably tried to make sense of my presence in Portugal and in their kitchen. From helping Debbie register Drex for school to taking Drex on family outings, to including us in birthday celebrations, this family has been famously gracious to us, and we are very thankful to be their neighbors. Our most fervent prayer in making this move was for a friend for Drex and God has answered. There’s Alexandro right next door, André upstairs, and, of course, Beatriz at school, to whom Drex presented a yellow rose last week along with a very nice card the sentiment in which was too personal to relate here. When Debbie kissed him goodnight tonight Drex asked her if we can stay in Portugal forever. O, Father, thank You for your tender care for us, the way You meet our deepest needs and delight in our well- being! (Psalm 35:27, 149:4). Both Drex and Austin have finished "summer school," and will have relatively unstructured Augusts. Debbie has had fun assembling a photo- illustrated walking tour of Braga for me to use with the Global Village volunteers I’ve been walking with in the mornings. These walks are a great opportunity to talk at length about significant, often spiritual things. Please "pray for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel . . . Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Ephesians 6:19- 20). Blessings upon you. Thank you for your love and prayers.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Aug 5 23:33:55 2001
I am struggling with my kissing. At first I was put off by the Portuguese custom of "beijinhos," or "little kisses," thinking disdainfully, "Pshaw, they don’t really mean it; they often don’t even make contact." Beijinhos are exchanged between men and women and between women—not between men—whenever the Portuguese are saying, "Hello," "Goodbye," or "It’s nice to meet you." This means that entire days at the jobsite can be taken up with kissing. After my initial reluctance, I went through a period when I was enamored with beijinhos. They seemed the perfect compromise for many situations that called for more than a handshake but less than the full body contact of a good old American bear hug. Better yet, to further distinguish between levels of intimacy, the Portuguese have "migratory beijinhos." In other words, as intimacy grows, beijinhos migrate inwards from kissing the air just in front of each ear towards the full on smack on the lips reserved for husband and wife. So for a while, I was ready to kiss anything. I was loving life with the Portuguese and their exotic, affectionate customs. But when one is conspicuously not Portuguese, say, the size of three ordinary Portuguese persons, the natives graciously desire to cut one some slack, and not take kisses by force. The result is a sort of back and forth head-bobbing movement, as if they are going to drive to the basket, as they try to determine whether you come from a kissing country or not. It is easy to mistake this head fake for reluctance and to get the feeling one is being forward by presuming to kiss every woman one meets. So then I decided not to kiss anyone except the members of my immediate family. But some people seemed hurt. I would kiss the most insistent beijinho- istas, the ones that come at you cheek first at 35 kph, but I would leave bystanders unkissed, wondering how such a clod got through customs. The solution, I suppose, is an easy-going approach to beijinhos, erring, ironically enough, in the direction of over-kissing, if such a thing were possible, as ebullience will more quickly be forgiven the affable American than will standoffishness. Please pray for my kissing. I had a delightful time of prayer Saturday morning before the World Leader’s Build began. I sat and discussed with God at length my concerns about the day and asked Him for His ideas about organization and management, as well as asking Him to bless things generally. He had some very good ideas, which I employed later to excellent effect. I’d like to practice this sort of conversational prayer continually, practicing what I hold to from the scriptures: "Yet I am always with You; You hold me by right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory." (Psalm 73:23-24). "Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." (John 17:3). "You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand." (Psalm 16:11). In other words, enjoying a heaping helping of heaven, today on earth. Not surprisingly, Saturday went very well, we had lots of new, delightful volunteers, and we accomplished much. We greeted a new team of twelve Global Village volunteers from the United States Sunday evening, who will begin work this morning (Monday). Austin is participating this week in an evangelistic outreach here in Braga with a group of young people from Holland. They are doing mime and other entertainment in various places around the city and talking with people about Jesus Christ. Already twenty people have decided to follow Christ! Please pray for them. Pray, too, for the outreach group themselves, and for their leader, Jonatas Pego, who has a pretty full plate this week, having just welcomed his new daughter, Rebecca, into the world. Having made it through something of an initial settling-in period, we are all feeling very blessed to be here, although yesterday was an, "I-miss- Ellie-Peters day," for Drex. Declaring his great affection for her in birthday postcard provided some small consolation. Thanks for your continued prayers for Debbie’s back, which keeps her moving pretty slowly. We’re making slow, steady progress with our language, I think. Thank you very much for your prayers along those lines. Language is such a spiritual thing. To borrow from a cooking teacher I once had, "The secret to language learning is love." Love of language, love for the people who speak the language, love for connecting with those people, love for the particular person you are speaking with right now. We love you, and thank God for you every day. "And this is our prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11).
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Name: Jord
Date: Thu Aug 9 05:48:08 2001
Ron Tracy, the self-described "Crazy Plumber from Oklahoma," who came to Braga last December for "two days" and ended up supervising the project for six months, is in town to help with the Worlld Leaders Build, and he chased me off the jobsite this morning so that I could have a day off with my family. As he can run the job far more capably than I and as today should be a relatively quiet day, with only a couple dozen volunteers expected rather than the scores we've had on other days, I was delighted to leave. As you have in the past if you've been following these reports, please pray for Ron and his plans to build and spread the gospel in Luanda, Angola. He plans to leave next month. May God work miracles and bless thousands through his work. #Speaking of the gospel, the big news around here, as you will undoubtedly read elsewhere on this website, is that over sixty people have decided to follow Jesus as a result of the outreach of the mime group that was here this week from Holland. Jonatas Pego, a pillar of the church we attend, who did his doctoral work in Holland, organized the outreach. But the church has no more than fifty adult members. How will God provide for the discipleship of these new believers? Could it be that God will draw from the body of Christ from all over Braga and even northern Portugal, from every Christian denomination, and raise up mature believers who will assume the responsibility of providing these babes in Christ with the intensive support and encouragement they will require if they are going to thrive spiritually? Can you imagine how exciting that would be, to have Catholics and Presbyterians and Baptists and Methodists and Pentacostals putting aside what divides them and focusing on Jesus Christ, knowing Him and walking with Him, and passing on that experience to a new generation of believers in order that they might do the same? Would that be fun, or what? Shall we pray for that!? #Finally for today, in order to give you a taste of jobsite conversation, here's a little sermon, some variation of which I have been delivering to Global Village volunteer teams after they've been on the job a day or two: Please notice that the work that we are doing is essentially spiritual work. In other words, the important thing about these houses is not whether or not they get built. History, Portugal, and even Braga, are littered with housing projects. The important thing about these houses is whether they are houses where spiritual things like love, joy, peace, patience and kindness flourish. #The same thing is true of our work here together today. The important things about today, the memorable things, are not going to be how much tile got laid or how much sheetrock got hung. What we will remember about our work are the spiritual things: the spirit with which we worked together, whether it was a spirit of cooperation and encouragement and joy, or a spirit of ingratitude and tedium and carelessness. #What’s more, the same thing can be said of our lives, generally. It is a spiritual game we’re playing. It is a spiritual journey we are on. After dinner, the important thing is not whether my daughter helps me wash the dishes or not. The important thing is the spirit with which she proceeds. She may say, affectionately, "Dad, would it be O.K. if I did not help with the dishes tonight? I am buried in homework." And I would say, "Absolutely! I would be delighted to serve you in that way." On the other hand, she could help with the dishes in a spirit of ingratitude and resentfulness that would make me wish she were somewhere else. #Even my friends who do not consider themselves spiritual or religious have to admit that the things they care about most are spiritual things. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, etc. #The reason it’s important to realize that this is spiritual work is because for spiritual work we need spiritual resources. If we rely soley upon our own resources we will find that we are drawing from a shallow well. We were not designed to be wells that we should be drawn from, but rather springs, out of which the the spiritual Life of God may flow. By themselves, our love and joy, and even the extraordinary gift of service you have given by crossing an ocean to be here, will have little effect on the well-being of these families. But when we go to God, our Spiritual Source, we can ask Him to make those contributions of ours as seeds, that take root and grow and bear fruit for generations. #So lets pray and ask God to bless our work today and this place and the families that will live here with His spiritual blessings and power.
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Name: Jord
Date: Fri Aug 10 02:29:40 2001
I assumed Ron Tracy would pick me up for work this morning at 7:45 in the Habitat truck I left with him yesterday. When I called him on his cell phone at 8 to find out where he was he was already at the jobsite. "Why didn’t you pick me up?" #"Well, because I didn’t want you to come to work today." So it looks as if I may have another day off. I haven’t had two in a row since I started May 1. I’ll check in with executive director Marta Pego e Pinto to see if there’s anything she’d like me to do, but it’s due to be another relatively quiet day, volunteer-wise, so I may be able to stay home. The thing I like best about the idea is that it flies in the face of my desire to be "in control." Taking a sabbath, taking oneself out of productivity, like tithing and giving, which in one sense is taking money out of productivity, is a great discipline to remind us that we are not in control. God is in control. "No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, He exalts another." (Psalm 75:6-7). "’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6). #My debt to Ron Tracy is too deep to repay alone. My only hope is that, in response to my prayers and yours, God will pour out His blessings upon Ron and his upcoming ministry in Angola and thereby relieve me of that debt. #Ron did say that two people were shaken but essentially unhurt yesterday after falling off equipment. David, a student from the University of Coimbra and the Portuguese son of an American expatriate Episcopalian pastor, fell off a ladder. After having lunch with the rest of the volunteers he was taken to have his wrist x- rayed. The x-rays were negative. Tiago, the energetic cousin of Marta Pego e Pinto’s husband Zé, walked off some scaffolding five feet from the ground with a paint pan in one hand and a paint roller in the other. He then stood up, brushed himself off, looked around to see if anyone had seen him fall, and went back to work. Please pray that both these fellas are indeed fine and that God would assign angels to watch over our jobsite specifically to keep people from falling (Psalm 91:11-12). #I spoke with Jonatas Pego last night about the discipleship of the sixty- eight new Christians and the others who expressed an interest in Christ in response to this week’s outreach. We discussed it in terms of spiritual parenting. The analogy between parenting and discipleship is apt in many ways, I think. Without spiritual parents, our new believers are likely to fare about as well as orphans, and the church about as well as an orphanage. Children survive in orphanages and in some rare instances probably thrive. But having a parent significantly increases an infant’s chances for survival and a baby left on the street to fend for itself is in very great danger of destruction. #Just as parents have programs and resources to supplement their parenting, so we in the church have a variety of classes and resources we may use. But these in no way replace our parenting. Parenting may overlap with these other programs. Indeed, to a large extent the programs serve to reinforce our parenting. But parenting is a different matter altogether. Parenting means that we assume primary responsibility for our children’s care. Parenting does not ensure a child’s survival. Only God can do that. #From a practical standpoint, I would not think it necessary to attend classes with my spiritual son any more than I would consider attending Drex’s class at school. I may sit in for a short time, and I will be anxious to find out at the end of the day what he has been learning, but the classes are primarily for the kids and it is expedient for parents to run errands while their children are in school. #Parenting and spiritual parenting are similar, too, in that most of parenting happens on the way to somewhere else. We often don’t go out of our way to parent. We simply share our lives with our children and attend to their needs while attending to the other business of life. #Many parents are unsure of themselves. Most probably are at one time or another. But we pray, listen carefully to our children, make it up as we go along, and expect God to bless us. And from parenting we derive our greatest joy (3 John 4). #We also discussed the idea of "beating the bushes of the body of Christ." In other words, relying upon prayer and drawing from our network of brothers and sisters in Christ to find faithful people who love God from every Christian church and denomination who would be willing to take on the responsibility of spiritual parenthood, ideally, one for every new believer. Jonatas seemed open to the idea. Would you please continue to pray for the new believers and for their ongoing spiritual growth and ask God to show us how to effectively care for them. #Muito obrigado pelo vossos orações (Thank you very much for your prayers). Deus vos abençoe (God bless y’all).
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Aug 12 09:36:47 2001
The World Leader’s Build week went exceedingly well. Thank you for your prayers. What I was thinking when I imagined I could do it without Ron Tracy I’ll never know. Thanks to him, rather than being a complete zoo, it was as restful a week as I’ve had here. He even gave me two days off (see above). The president did not come. "Não é possivel," at this time, he said, but he supports our work and hopes to come later this year. On Monday, which was Company Day, a large contingent from IBM in Lisbon drove up, including Marta, a pretty, energetic young woman who is confined to a wheelchair but who had assured us ahead of time that she wanted "real" work. We arranged for her to help hang sheetrock by screwing it to the wall with a screw gun. She loved it. A woman named Conceição, also an IBMer, pushed Marta’s wheelchair. Conceição called executive director Marta Pego e Pinto the following day to say that she had been so affected by the day that she hadn’t slept, reviewing all that had happened, and had decided that she clearly needs to change her life. Please pray for her, that she follows the prompting of the Holy Spirit. #Please pray that the Habitat houses are completed this fall. The greatest concern of executive director Marta Pego e Pinto and others is that the families might have to go through another wet winter in their present homes. I wish you could visit these places in order to encourage your prayers. They are awful. Some have no electricity or running water. They leak and are covered with mold. Given the choice, I would rather live outdoors. "Who is like the Lord our God . . . He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap." (Psalm 113:5,7). "Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly." (Luke 18:7-8). Please pray that the members of our families do indeed cry out to God day and night in order that He may show Himself strong on their behalf. #I had an exciting conversation this week with Mary Engelking, the Director of HFHI in Europe, who was in town for the World Leader’s Build, about building and renovating houses for poorer and poorer people. She challenged our local affiliate here to take a dramatic step in that direction, to imagine housing solutions for the poorest of the poor! I think God loves this sort of thinking: "If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings." (Isaiah 58:10-12). It is a task that is fantastically beyond us! A challenge only God can meet. We will have to rely entirely upon Him to give us the ideas and the resources to carry out this work on His behalf. #Jonatas Pego sent out an email asking for spiritual parents for those sixty-eight people who decided to follow Christ in response to our church’s outreach last week. Please pray that the Lord would raise up men and women of God from every Christian denomination to take responsibility for the care of these new believers. #Thank you for your prayers for Debbie’s back. Earlier in the week she said she hadn’t taken Advil in days! #We have friends in America who have a little unborn baby, nicknamed Spike, about 5 weeks past conception, who appears to be struggling a bit to get a foothold on life. Would you please pray for Spike, that all his vital signs improve to appropriate levels and that even now, he and God would enjoy intimate fellowship: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew, before you were born I set you apart." (Jeremiah 1:5). "You whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth . . . I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (Isaiah 46:4). "From my mother’s womb You have been my God." (Psalm 22:10). This is the word of the Lord. Let it be so for Spike, amen. #Thank you for all your love and support and prayers. May God bless you this week even as you put your trust in Him.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Aug 19 11:53:20 2001
A high-pitched but resonant chorus of hallelujahs wells up from the east end of the jobsite and spreads like a great wave of relief and joy towards the west. Every feminine voice instinctively joins in the crescendo of recognition and delight until the very earth seems to shake. Far away in the center of the city the bells of the Sé cathedral ring softly from the redounding noise. Every male says, "Huh?" Victor, from LeVap Ambiente, has arrived in his giant sucking truck to evacuate the porta-potties. #What I’m alluding to here is not a single issue, but a complex set of issues. Toilet paper is another piece of this complicated puzzle. Long ago I was forbidden by my wife and daughter to buy the cheap toilet paper at the grocery store. But when, in keeping with my high station as construction supervisor, I restock the toilet paper supply for the jobsite, I am torn. How will our Global Village volunteers know ours is an authentic jobsite and that they are on a real adventure vacation without 220 grit toilet paper? These are the sorts of philisophical quandries that define Habitat jobsite politics. #As we approach the end of August, our tile is arrayed against us like a vast army, thick as locusts, no more to be counted than the sand on the seashore (Judges 7:12), and it stands between us and our goal of having our families moved in by winter. Consequently, I am intending to circulate the following all-points-bulletin throughout Portugal and the world: #90 in 09 #In September (09), we need 90 people who will work for four days each installing tile. If we complete this tiling, our families can move in before the rain begins in October. The homes they live in now hardly slow the rain down, much less keep it out, so the situation is urgent. #There are five Saturdays in September, so you may have one to spend any way you please, and still get in your four tiling days! Weedays are less crowded, though. (The jobsite is closed Thursdays and Sundays). #If you cannot come to Palmeira four times in September, you can hire a replacement. For 32000 escudos ($160) we can arrange to have your work completed by a professional in your absence. #What a blessing it will be to all of us, but especially to our families, to pull together and finish this work. Thank you for your participation. #When Gideon faced that army in Judges 7, God delivered him with 300 volunteers. May God raise up the volunteers to deliver us, too. #Drex has had a couple of difficult weeks, so we had a nice conversation with him on the way to church this morning about culture shock, the way in which many things that were familiar and easy in Seattle take extra energy and can make us tired and cranky here. Daddy is struggling, too, not being able to talk with people, the way he likes. But it’s a little like being on the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (by C.S. Lewis, one of the Chronicles of Narnia, which we are reading together), we have to pull together, defend one another and build one another up. Austin, we agreed, is like Reepicheep, the mouse, who says, "My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise." (Page 213). Austin has no plans to return west. #Speaking of planning, I had an encouraging conversation this week with Habitat executive director Marta Pego e Pinto wherein we agreed that we would both like me to continue in my present role beyond my one year contract. #I have the week off from work. Drex and I are going camping in beautiful Geres National Park, which we are very excited about. Austin is at a Christian Youth camp all week. Debbie will stay home and rest her back. #Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and support. We thank God for you.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Aug 27 06:28:34 2001
"I’m on the verge of being overwhelmed," I said to Debbie, as we stood in the sporting goods store trying to gather the miscellaneous camping equipment Drex and I needed at the beginning of my weeklong vacation. I was having a bad language day, and translating equipment information was turning my heart to wax (Psalm 22:14). Looking back, it is comically ironic that God has given me sufficient power to supervise the construction of twelve houses where we hope scores of people will live for generations, but He allowed me to see the limits of my own power when it came to assembling a campsite where Drex and I would live for three days. I had become so consumed with my own feeble efforts to break the language barrier that I could think of little else. And my power shortage did not end in the sporting goods store. Though there were bright moments during the packing and anticipation before the trip, my disposition remained overcast as Drex and I headed into the mountains of Gerês National Park. #I felt justified in my cloudy outlook when our search for a campsite uncovered no secluded hideaways to which we could backpack, but instead left us stuck with the car-campers and all the close proximity, television sets, radios, trash, and other disruption that mark car-camping everywhere. But Drex, seemingly oblivious to my grumbling, was delighted with everything from the pitching of the tent to the building of the campfire. He divided much of his time between playing with the five-year-old girl whose family camped ten feet away and flirting with the college girls who were camped twelve feet away. And I’m sure we wouldn’t have noticed the trash if I hadn’t complained about it. His relentless merriment carried the days, and we had a great time, despite me. #On Thursday morning I rose early, made a big pot of camp coffee, and spent several quiet hours before the rest of the camp awoke, lying on my camping mat under the trees praying, reading my Bible, and refocusing my attention on God, rather than on myself. God revived and restored me (Psalm 80:18-19). #For me, the theme of the whole affair was, "Power comes through praise and thanksgiving to God (Psalm 50:23). Focussing on my own capabilities—or incapabilities—leads quickly to despair." It’s an old lesson, one I seem to need to learn repeatedly. Please pray that I fix my eyes upon Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). #Debbie enjoyed her time alone while everyone else was off camping. She rested her back, which is in stable condition. #Austin had a great time at her camp and was encouraged, I think, both with respect to her faith and her Portuguese. #School begins for Drex in two weeks. Please pray for a sympathetic teacher. #We hope God accomplishes great things in September at the jobsite. The end of the project is coming into view. Please continue to pray that it arrives before the rain. #May the Lord bless you for your love and care for us, in Jesus Name, amen.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Sep 9 03:47:19 2001
Well, we’re about half way through the show, folks, and it’s time for an intermission. Today is my 40th birthday, and I reckon I’m about half way to glory (Psalm 90:10, 73:23-24). What a blessing to grow old with God: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal," (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). My increasingly dilapidated frame serves as an outward reminder of my inner transformation: For "we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit," (2 Corinthians 3:18). What fun to look forward to the enlargement of my heart (Psalm 119:32) and increasing fruitfulness (John 15:2). Last Sunday we met an Australian family—Russell, Bronwen, thirteen year old Ashley and eleven year old Jordan (who romped generously with Drex all afternoon) Roberts—that is in Braga on sabbatical and that is also celebrating a birthday—that of mom Bronwen—today. So we are going to party together, speak English, eat ice cream, and, I hope, throw boomerangs like we did last Sunday. Having been taught by Russell, who is not aboriginal and who was himself taught by an American (Of course the Americans are world champions, he explained. They’re more competitive and have more free time than anyone else.) to throw a boomerang, I am very excited about finding boomerangs a comfortable place in the second half of my life between backpacking and chess. Russell promises there are websites like boomerangdesign.com. He makes his out of 5mm, 5-ply marine plywood and paints them exotic colors. And they really do come back to you! It’s a gas. I can hardly wait to get back to the states so I can make and throw boomerangs with my brother (the pilot—a boomerang is just a wing) , brother-in-law (who will require a custom-made, left-handed version), and nephews. Am I boring you? Absolutely nothing to pray about here. At the jobsite, the response to our call for tile volunteers has been extremely encouraging. A number of folks have come forward to lay tiles and a number of others have hired substitutes. To reiterate, all of this is in hopes of getting our families into their houses before the weather gets wet and begins dripping into their present homes. It is impossible for them to repair their leaky roofs because if they were to get on top of them to make repairs the roofs would cave in. The Habitat Hero of the Week was Wilson, a Portuguese colt of a fellow with an American name and a place in our tradition of local high school students giving us big chunks of there summer vacation (see João Paulo and Pedro, June 24, above. (Wilson is another of Pedro’s cousins)). Several weeks ago, after he had served with unbridled energy and enthusiasm for many days, I had to ask Wilson not to enter the work area because I had discovered that he is not yet sixteen. It was heartbreaking, since kids like Wilson represent the future of Habitat in Portugal. But Wilson has responded by continuing to show up and make himself available to help in anyway he can outside the work area. This week he helped by making about a hundred phone calls, collecting names and bids related to tile and paving, and then helping me with translation when the people he had called showed up to look at the work. He is really an amazing kid, bounding about and leaping for joy after fruitful telephone calls. Please pray that God will bless Wilson exuberantly for his effusive service to us and our families. Please continue to pray for the planning of our next project. We need God’s direction with respect to where and for whom to build. I am very excited to discover what He has in store for us. I am enjoying so much my relationships with the families we’re building for now, as I become more conversant and we grow in fondness for one another. How great it will be to serve other, even more needy, families. At home, the big prayer request is for time with Debbie. It was a delightful, fruitful week in many respects, but I feel like a fellow who has just completed a puzzle but is left holding a piece close to the center that helps hold the whole picture together. Debbie and I hardly saw each other all week. Blessedly, Austin watched Drex Friday night and we went out for a birthday dinner and walk among Braga’s fountains and gardens. It was wonderful. Drex starting school tomorrow—please pray for that!—should help, as he will need to be in bed earlier, and if I am smart I will take weekly advantage of Austin’s childcare capabilities, but that would require my being smarter than I have been up til now. But what is prayer for, after all (James 1:5)?! Thank you so much for your faithfulness and prayerfulness towards us. The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you.
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Name: Jord
Date: Wed Sep 26 01:21:15 2001
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21. I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is Mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Romans 12:17- 20. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8.
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Name: Jord
Date: Thu Sep 27 15:43:54 2001
Those of you who faithfully check here each week for updates, please forgive me for my recent silence. With everyone, we have felt the general uproar. That has made it difficult to find words and made ordinary things seem trivial. But when evil is evident our commitment to do good becomes more important than ever and it is encouraging to remember that the kingdom of God is manifest and triumphant wherever people trust in Him and are animated by His Holy Spirit. #School has begun, so Habitat Braga has lost its most faithful volunteers, João Paulo, Pedro and Wilson, who have resumed classes at local high schools. To celebrate the end of our summer together João Paulo made a chocolate cake and brought Coke—"You have to like Coke; you’re an American"—and then the fellas asked me to join them for futebol (soccer) Sunday morning before church. We met at eight o’clock and I was surprised by my recklessness when I realized that their three combined ages only narrowly exceed my own, but it was great fun and I was only really disabled for one day afterwards and sore just three. #Even as the high schoolers were leaving God brought us another volunteer, Adriano, an environmental engineer currently studying to earn a degree in architecture. After about one week, he has been a spectacular help, taking over on the phone from Wilson and bringing great thoughtfulness to the myriad puzzles that come with every building project. Alas, not long into October we will lose Adriano to classes as well, but on Sunday the wife and son of the pastor of our church asked if the son, John, who is fourteen, might work for Habitat as part of his homeschooling. John moves effortlessly between English and Portuguese, so having him around will not only be great fun, it will also be a great help. #There is a flurry of activity around the houses and the sun is still shining. One Global Village team from the U.S. cancelled due to the war, but the last team of the summer, due October 4th, may still come. Please continue to pray that God expedites the completion of the work and holds off the bad weather until the families move in. #Debbie and Austin are sick. A couple of days ago Debbie’s throat was so sore and swollen she was having difficulty breathing. Ice chips opened the aperture. A nice Spanish woman doctor who moved to Braga just three months ago put her on penicillin. The cat just licked one of the capsules, but the senhora doctora was adamant about Debbie finishing them ALL! Austin has had a fever over one hundred degrees for two days, but remains cheerful. We’ve agreed she’ll visit the doctor tomorrow at lunch if she’s not better. #Drex is coughing a bit on his classmates at school—it was a borderline stay-home situation this morning--but the good news is that school is going very, very well for him. He has made friends, is chattering in Portuguese and loves both his teachers—the original, who has taken ill, and her replacement, a man, who says he and Drex are amigos. #Last night my throat was so sore it woke me like a fire alarm every time I swallowed, but it was miraculously better this morning, which is good, cause every household oughta have one adult on their feet. #I don’t have to tell you how wartime makes everything more poignant, as if one is watching a movie and studying the emotions and movements of the characters much more than one would in ordinary life. Such intensity brings to light the incalculable worth of the love and prayers of family and friends. You are very dear to us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Oct 7 02:12:40 2001
Generally speaking, I love barbershops and getting my hair cut. Look at it: you go in because you’ve been feeling like a Neanderthal for a couple of weeks and, for a few bucks, you come out smelling like flowered water and feeling like Clark Kent, as if it would be impossible for you to be either resisted or vanquished. (Unless, of course, you are given some sort of clown haircut, in which case the feelings of persecution are intense). And all of this takes place in a rich, highly evolved setting, full of symbolic meaning, where males in every culture have been gathering to engage in quintessential male relational behavior for millions of years. I found the perfect place in Braga. The barber’s name, I believe, is Georg, and his ancient shop is set down a couple of worn granite steps beneath the street in a centuries old stone building way down towards the end of the Avenida de Liberdade. With the two old leather barber chairs, the glass covering one wall and the tools—-some of which have worn grooves into their places on the shelves from which they are continually coming and going—-handed down to Georg (who badly needs a haircut—but where is he to go!?) by his great-great-grandfather the barber, it is the perfect male blend of palace and garage. Georg, who speaks no English, does not bother me, who speaks no Portuguese, after our initial strategic huddle, so I am free to read and drink in the ambiance while being treated like a foreign dignitary (again, for five bucks!). Like every alchemist, Georg has his own mysterious blend of technique and potion, and one watches wide-eyed through the looking glass as he expertly works his magic. (Georg’s shop also lacks the ubiquitous TV set that spoils the ritual in so many places. Instead, he has a crackling leather-bound battery-operated portable radio still playing the same traditional Portuguese music and giving the same news reports it was giving from exactly the same perch during World War II). When I first visited Georg, in late August, I tried to explain that, thinking it best for us to begin our relationship slowly, I only wanted a little taken off. Georg, evidently, thought I only wanted a little left. This last Friday I returned, armed with new phrases from my Portuguese tutor to explain, again, that I felt we needed to slow our relationship down a bit, only cut a little off, a little longer here, a little shorter there, etc. I think I got the same haircut. Still, I enjoyed the whole thing very much and left, smelling great and feeling like a mildly persecuted Clark Kent. #"My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest." (Isaiah 33:18). #It was a fun, sunny, busy day at the jobsite yesterday. The families, having received keys to their houses last week, commenced work early and were still at it when I drove away at 5:30. A new Global Village team of seven "Woman’s Build" volunteers from North Carolina began work. Tile layers laid tile. Then there were the local volunteers: Teresa, who probably weighs just under one hundred pounds herself, is perhaps the smallest large animal veterinarian in western Europe and always shows up to work on the houses in one of those disposable white paper painter’s suits, so that she looks like a tiny astronaut, blasted off and disappearing into space. Adriano is 26, an environmental engineer studying to become an architect and a pilot and volunteering with Habitat as part of a personal spiritual awakening. Mario, from Porto, is a 24-year-old civil engineer who wants to see if there is a viable alternative in residential construction to what we might call the established Portuguese construction "Machine." Young architects Paulo and Miguel have been talking about starting an organization like Habitat for Humanity in Portugal for fifteen years and only recently discovered that it already exists. God has been so generous to send us these fantastic people. Please pray that He sends us 100 more like them. And please pray for our week, which promises more of the same busy-ness, that God would give us a spirit of delight and even worship as we serve Him together. #Drex is chattering away in Portuguese and struggling with the usual set of mixed first grade feelings. Some days he can’t wait to get across the street to school, other days he wants nothing to do with it. It appears as if Austin may be attending classes at the school across the street in the other direction, a high school, studying language and reviewing math in preparation for the required college entrance exam she’ll take as soon as it’s offered. Thank you so much for your prayers for both of them, for their ongoing adjustment and acculturation. #Please continue to pray for Debbie who is sick and tired of being sick and tired. Her first course of antibiotics did not fully eradicate a bad ear and throat infection and it returned late this week like a truck. #Knowing that it rains in Braga thirty percent more than it does in Seattle, we had anticipated some difficulty getting clothes to dry on the rack this winter. The weather was a little wet this week, so after the clothes had been hanging wet for three days—no, Drexel, this is inside—Austin prayed and asked God for $300 for a dryer. He misunderstood, apparently, and sent $3000. Praise Him for His amazing generosity to us and the way He provides for all our needs. "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19). (Note to parents: take advantage of your children's special standing before God (Matthew 18:10). Have them pray for you!). After Himself, you and your loving prayers are His greatest blessing to us-—"As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight." (Psalm 16:3). Bless you.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Oct 14 11:44:26 2001
I had not thought of the Seattle Mariners for months, but on Monday I remembered, "Hey, the Mariners were fifteen games ahead (or something like that) when I left in May, and it’s October—-time for the World Series. I wonder how they’re doing now." Here, Michael Jordan’s return merits some media coverage and Yankee hats are popular in every color, but beyond that the Portuguese appear to be indifferent to American sports, so it was with a certain sense of isolation that I read via the internet reports of the Mariners unlikely season. Wanting to share my excitement, I went first to Debbie. When I told her the M’s had tied the 1906 Chicago Cub’s record for wins she gushed, "Wow! Neat!" and for a split second she took me in. But before another word had completely formed itself on my lips I realized that the broad smile on her face was born of unmitigated indifference. Later that morning a volunteer named Jean, a member of the Global Village Woman’s Build team currently in town from North Carolina, inadvertently said something remotely related to baseball or maybe just something about a ball or a plate, which caused me to spontaneously burst forth about the Mariners, the 1906 Cubs and Ichiro. Jean’s response was identical to Debbie’s, without the sarcasm. She would have liked to help if she could have. Finally, desperately searching for someone with whom to connect, I told Adriano, the wonderful environmental-engineer-studying-to-be-an-architect who has been a regular volunteer and an enormous help lately, and who was the first male I saw that day, hoping that, if nothing else, we might find in my enthusiasm some point for male bonding. Sensing I needed sympathy, after a quick and characteristically thoughtful inventory of his resources, Adriano shared this story: During the ten month period he lived in Iowa in 1991, he played on his high school’s baseball team and batted twice. In his second at bat, in the final game of the year, he was hit by a pitch and was given first base. He went on to score. Adriano and I sat silently for a time, both envisioning a tiny, bespectacled Portuguese teenager crossing home plate, bruised but triumphant, thousands of miles from home and everything familiar. It was a tenuous connection, certainly, but there was a spark that we both felt. ## At the jobsite, the tile looks great and should be finished in a couple of weeks. We had an abundance of local volunteers this week, which is a great answer to prayer. Please pray that their numbers continue to grow and that we are successful in cultivating their sense of ownership of this Habitat affiliate. ## My biggest prayer request this week is the oldest prayer in the post- industrial-revolution Christian man’s psalter: balancing work and family. I’ve decided to actually log my work hours, as I imagine all my attorney friends doing, in order to make sure that I am giving Habitat its due, without falling into the temptation to believe that Habitat depends upon me or the temptation to believe that a willingness to work long hours proves my worth or manliness. God will do with Habitat as He wishes, and if I want to be a part of that and not have my time with Habitat cut short, I need to attend to my family with at least the same energy and attention I bring to work. This whole adventure will come to an abrupt end if the family does not thrive. Please pray that God will give me wisdom and insight into how to minister to each member of my family. ## I have become so blessedly dependent upon the word of God and prayer. Reading the Bible and praying through the promises and admonishments of the Lord is to my soul exactly like eating and drinking is to my body. Without it, I very quickly lose energy, focus, and strength. With it, "all things are possible." (Mark 10:27). ## Everyone is healthy here now. Thank you very much for your prayers for our health. Please continue to pray especially for Austin and Debbie, whose weekly routines continue to take shape, and for Drex who still regularly faces many challenges, some inherent to foreign living, some to first grade. ## May God bless you for your kindness and prayers towards us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Oct 21 10:09:15 2001
When Europe reaches out into the Atlantic it does so in the form of Portugal. Apart from this geographical gregarity, however, the Portuguese prefer to be unobtrusive. Having proved half a millenium ago that they can lead the world, they are not in a hurry to do it again. Their language must be spoken softly to be appreciated. They are built solidly and low to the ground, like small tractors. ## In contrast to his quiet countrymen, Autumn has arrived in northern Portugal spitting, blustering and beating his chest. Then, like a hot-tempered Iberian trying to make amends, his countenance breaks into a glistening smile and from behind his back he produces . . . a rainbow, sometimes several a day. ## We are close to finishing our twelve houses in Palmeira, just north of Braga. How quickly they are completed will depend in part upon how well I am able to communicate with various subcontractors without much help in translation, now that Wilson, João Paulo, and finally, Adriano, have returned to school. Please pray for these conversations and the continued improvement of my Portuguese. Also, please continue to pray for our next project, that God would open a door for ministry and for construction. ## Speaking of ministry in construction, I shared the gospel yesterday with an American volunteer named Aicha, and I think she was very happy to hear it. I asked her to think of the thing that touches her most deeply, that resonates in the farthest depths of her soul—a piece of music, a culinary experience, a manicure, whatever. That is what the life of faith in God through Jesus Christ is like, continually. ["Not that I have already obtained all this . . . " Philippians 3:12-14.] "This is eternal life:," Jesus prayed, "that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." (John 17:3). Eternity now. Heaven on earth. "Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3). Please pray for Aicha. She is a prodigal who has never been home, indeed, who had never heard she had a home. (There are many, many such people among us). Pray for her salvation, that she would put her trust in Jesus Christ and His work of reconciliation and redemption on her behalf. ## At home, there’s been a lead change in the race to language fluency. The pastor’s daughter declared today at church that Drex is officially speaking better Portuguese than Austin. (In this race—need I say it?—dad is coming in a distant, if determined, fourth. But I think it is good for the family to see him struggle, and the humiliation only hurts because he needs it.) Please pray for Austin. The high school across the street has said that she may not take classes there in preparation for the college entrance exams next year. How would God like her to spend her time? Debbie is asking the same question, now that Drex is ensconced in school, and the wheels in her head are gathering speed. It will be fun to see where the Lord directs her to focus her considerable energies. Thanks for your prayers that He clearly indicate His will and also for your prayers for her health—she is extremely grateful to be strong and healthy again. ## I think we are all learning about friendship. We all prayed so much for friends for Drex that it does not seem to have occurred to us to pray for friends for the rest of us, as if we were above all that. Not that we have not made friends with many wonderful people. We have. But close spiritual friendship is another matter. For my part, God so blessed me with friends in America that I have been completely spoiled, as if one picks up soulmates, like fresh produce, on the way home from work. Now that Ron Tracy, the self- described "Crazy plumber from Oklahoma," has moved on to Angola, I have no close friends beyond my immediate family. There are many good lessons to be learned in this, of course. Pray that I learn them well, that I graduate with humility, and that God would be pleased to raise up for each of us Christian friends, that we "may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith." (Romans 1:12). ## Thank you for your friendship, encouragement and prayers.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Oct 28 16:07:34 2001
Living in Portugal, I must remind myself that there were awkward moments in America, too. Otherwise, when the awkwardometer registers in the red zone, as it did last evening at a party celebrating the sixth birthday of one of Drex’s classmates, I might imagine that Portugal is entirely to blame. Being the only strangers in a room full of family and close friends is awkward on any continent. And it’s nothing new. It’s not just because the only "English" spoken came from the family cut-up who could only manage, "Osama bin Laden," and, cheerfully pointing to the food, "No Anthrax!" Rather than pondering how required attendance at such gatherings might be an effective means of reforming criminals, I should have been thanking God that Drex has friends like the newly-minted six-year-old, Rui, who love him enough to include him and his parents at their parties. ###"I heard the sound . . . like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty . . . " (Ezekiel 1:24). This is a good reason to go camping. All the kids in Portugal have this week off from school and I am off work, so Drex and I are planning another camping trip. Seeing the rain outside, Austin wasn’t the slightest bit interested in joining us until I pointed out that with a few hours drive we could be camping on the Mediteranean. At that point, Debbie almost became interested. We still haven’t had a chance to plan the week. We’ll ask God to direct us. ###Please pray for the Habitat work, which will continue in my absence. We have a group of high school students coming from Lisbon, and Adriano, Aicha and João Paulo, who you may remember reading about here before, are going to supervise. We are very thankful that the three of them are willing to serve in this capacity. Please pray that it is a safe, blessed, fruitful time. ###Austin is in the midst of very serious spiritual work. She is making decisions that are going to determine what kind of person she is going to be. She needs to decide whether she is going to "play ball," with God, or just go through the motions. You could do us no greater favor this week than to pray for her. ###I need to pray more. I am reading the gospel of Luke. Jesus prayed a lot. I have been worrying about work. Worry is nothing but doubt. Doubting God. "You of little faith," Jesus said to Peter after saving him from sinking, "Why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31). I believe prayer is the remedy. Thank you for yours.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Nov 4 12:21:42 2001
Debbie called me on my cell phone Wednesday to say that Alexandre, our six-year-old neighbor, wanted to join us on our camping trip. I had been sitting on the beach in Angeiras, a quaint seaside village one hour from Braga, watching Drex dodge waves under a cloudless sky. Watching him brought back memories of my own days spent playing in the surf of the same ocean, at the same latitude, on the opposite side, in Rhode Island, when I was about the same age. What followed was a slapstick classic: My camping list, which is one of my little eccentricities and which I copied out of the Boy Scout Handbook (I’m not kidding) suddenly blew away towards the water. With the phone in my right hand and other papers in my left I scampered after it across the dunes, teased and turned as I followed the wind. With a growing awareness of my own silliness—the list is stored on the computer—I waded into the surf, in my trousers, up to my knees. "Hold on honey. Where did it go?" A wave broke. "There it is!" To my right. I plunged my right hand into the sea, phone and all, and retrieved the soggy list. The list would dry. The phone lay in my hand like a fish, emitting labored near-death, gulping signs. ##We drove back to Braga and retrieved Alexandre, who occasionally has trouble sleeping, and assured his mother that, having had difficulty camping out as a boy myself, I would happily bring him home at any time if he wanted me to. Very early the next morning, Alexandre enabled me to make good on that promise when he staggered out of the tent to where I was sleeping under the stars. He was covered with a very slimy substance, his Portuguese word for which I did not recognize, but I did recognize the fettuccine we had had for dinner. To make the comedy complete, when we arrived home an hour and a half later, at about 3:30 a.m., the water supply in our apartment was shut off for service and there was no way to clean anything. ##But it was a glorious week off. It was sunny and seventy every day, leaving us to wonder which is the real Braga autumn. Caprice, apparently, is the weather’s primary theme this time of year. Because of my week away from the jobsite, I did not have a chance to follow up much with Aicha, regarding the spiritual things we had discussed. She lunched with our family after church today—though she declined to attend with us—but she leaves for Madrid, and the possibility of a new life there, tomorrow morning, without resolving the question of how to respond to the call of God upon her life. Please continue to pray for her, that she will come to faith in Jesus Christ and trust only in Him. ##I’ve had a couple of good language weeks. Speaking Portuguese for me is now like trying to carry on a conversation at a very loud cocktail party—it is difficult, but one can manage. I am anxious to employ my growing language skills to help build the kingdom of God in Braga. I want to talk with people at church about discipleship and prayer and building connections with other churches, especially the Catholic church. Please pray that God will direct us along fruitful paths. Please pray for revival in Braga. ##Debbie has said that she will help Habitat look for real estate for our next project. Please pray that God will lead her and bless her in that. ##Please forgive me for being cryptic about Austin last week. Please continue to pray for her, that she will avail herself of the spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline, that God has given her (2 Timothy 1:7), and that she will take full responsibility for managing His gifts to her. I suppose that’s no less cryptic. ##Drex said yesterday he is excited, after a week off, about getting back to school. Praise God. ##May God be gracious to you and bless you and make His face shine upon you, that His ways may be known upon the earth, His salvation among the nations. Psalm 67:1.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Nov 11 15:01:10 2001
Language learning can be like running. On a good day, running alone, one is apt to think, "Man! I am really something! Perhaps I can rearrange my schedule and contend for the Olympic team." Then, suddenly, one is passed by a child trotting easily or an elderly woman carrying a kidney dialysis machine, and reality is restored. In a similar way, doing language exercises or talking with sympathetic loved ones or tutors, one is apt to fall into delusions of competency. Then, one is left to contend for oneself on a jobsite somewhere in northern Portugal and one discovers that reality often involves the subjunctive case, whatever that is. ##A couple of weeks ago here I wrote, "Worry is nothing but doubt. Doubting God." I think there is less to it than that. God rarely, if ever, enters into my worry. That is the problem. My worry tends to be simply an uncomfortable sense that my personal resources are insufficient to deal with a particular situation. But there is some good thinking there. My personal resources are insufficient. Life is way beyond my control. "Apart from Me, you can do nothing," Jesus said (John 15:5). That’s an important thing to remember. But worry is what happens when that realization that I am not in control does not lead to trust in God, Who is. I am like a lightbulb with a loose wire. I ought to be lit up with praise and thanksgiving to God, but instead, energy just builds up, accomplishing nothing, threatening harm. So this week I installed a switch in my brain—spiritually speaking—and connected it to a neon sign that reads, "Praise God." As soon as I felt energy begin to accumulate over something, energy that might generate worry, I flipped the switch and gave thanks and honor to God for His capacity to deal with the situation. This allowed me to be a brighter witness for God, and by allowing God to attend to that which is His business, I was left with more energy to attend to that which is mine. The division of labor worked great! I was able to focus on people and God moved ahead the work of construction in several important ways—scheduling subcontractors and removing obstacles—that I had struggled with for weeks. Praise Him. ##Drex had a very good week. He was excited about school, about his friends there, about learning to read and write, even about his homework. This afternoon he attended another birthday party for one of his classmates. But, too, while no one was watching this morning, he set a framed photograph of Ellie Peters next to his place so that he could, "Have breakfast with Ellie." Thank you again for your prayers for him. ##Austin is involved in organizing the Christian young people at our church and in the area. Please pray with us that the Holy Spirit will work powerfully among them. ##You and your prayers are a tremendous blessing to us. We cannot thank you enough, but we thank God for you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Nov 18 16:19:40 2001
We had a great group of volunteers from Lisbon this week. Eight employees of Citibank, seven Portuguese and one young Canadian with a degree from Syracuse. Two Luis’s, a Rui, Bastan, Paula, Gabriella, Zenan, and Suzanna were full of energy and willingness and humor. Forgive me for repeating myself, but it is such a blessing and a privilege to work with the people who come to volunteer with Habitat. I am a much richer person for all the people who have come to Palmeira from all over the world to build. I would not trade one of them, but when Portuguese people come it is especially gratifying. Ideally, volunteers and homeowners, rather than professionals or fulltime paid staff, would do all the work of building Habitat for Humanity Houses. I don’t know whether that happens in any of the 60+ countries where Habitat operates, but I know that in some places professionals donate time to supervise or perform work that can’t be done by nonprofessionals. I can well imagine myself stepping back from fulltime involvement with Habitat, volunteering some time, helping a well established core of volunteers build houses. That image informed my work this week and cast it in a slightly different light. I felt less a sense of ownership and more a sense of temporary stewardship, if you will. And with my words I tried to convey more of a sense of volunteer ownership and responsibility. This brought both a freedom and an urgency to the work. I’m not sure any of that will make much sense to anyone but me, but it made for an interesting week and a sense that God’s plans are unfolding before us. well. I am very excited about the next project for the Braga Habitat affiliate. We are still just getting started gathering information, but this much we know: Here in Portugal, and in other parts of Europe, Habitat builds houses for $450/m2 or so. The current project here in Palmeira, near Braga, is twelve houses, about 1000 m2. Twelve is a good number. It’s large enough to generate interest, but still very manageable. 1000 m2 is certainly a nice round number. The board of directors has said that they would like to continue to serve the same sort of families we’ve served in Palmeira, so the next project may look very similar to this one in terms of scope. We are looking at newer, simpler, faster, more volunteer- friendly building technologies. We have a number of young architects who would like to help with design. And then there are all these wonderful Portuguese volunteers that God is raising up! What a time we’ll have, Lord willing! 1000 m2 x $450/m2 is about a half million dollars. What fun to serve a God who does not ask us to do anything that He does not intend to provide the means to accomplish (2 Corinthians 9:8, Philippians 4:19). But, of course, He likes to be asked (James 4:2c). Would you please join us in asking? Debbie’s mom had a peculiar x-ray this week. Please pray that she is completely well. The Christmas season begins early here in Portugal. There is no Halloween or Thanksgiving, so the Christmas decorations begin to go up in late October. And in this very Catholic city, the whole town is decked out. People who want to get packages to America need to start early, too. Thanks to Herculean efforts by Debbie, we’ve done that. So we’re listening to Christmas carols in Portuguese and feeling more acutely the distance from friends and loved ones. But at the same time we’re praying those especially intense Christmas prayers, that God, who did not spare His own son, but sent Him for us all, will touch people even today no less miraculously. May He manifest Himself to you in new and exciting ways this Christmas!
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Nov 25 14:32:43 2001
Pete Rose, the Major League Baseball all-time hit leader, said, "The most important thing about hitting is to hit aggressively." It might also be said, "The most important thing about learning is to learn aggressively." In that spirit, I’ve been playing a language game I call, "Knock Out!" Language learning is like boxing: people who speak foreign languages—the Portuguese for example—throw unfamiliar words at you like punches, trying to knock you senseless. The object of the game is to dodge those unfamiliar words, not allow them to phase you, keep your wits about you, and figure out what in the world people are talking about. You have to look for openings—familiar words—that will let you into the conversation. You have to focus and hold on! It is a grueling, but often gratifying contest. If you are successful in ascertaining the subject of the conversation, you earn extra points if you can figure out whether people are for it or against it. ##Relatedly, I jumped in with the homeowners yesterday and asked them to teach me the concrete finishing work they are doing on the wall in front of the houses—we call it stucco in the States, and I have no experience with it. I had delayed in doing this both because I had plenty of other things to do and because I was not confident enough of my language skills to face an entire day of their instruction. I knew that, like every learning curve, the stucco learning curve is ugly in the beginning. Learning is always a messy business, and concrete is messy even if you know what you’re doing. So I chose a section of wall and determined to slop concrete over its entire surface without looking back. I tried to imitate the homeowner’s graceful technique: combining the artistry of a second baseman and a short-order cook, they flip the cement on a palette and then fling it, rapid-fire, with a tool they call a spoon, at the wall—scrape, flip, fling, scrape, flip, fling, scrape, flip, fling . . . reload . . . scrape, flip, fling, and so on. It’s really beautiful, if you’re into this sort of thing. So I made a mess, and some of them laughed, but I got a couple of miles, so to speak, down the stucco road and gained the confidence to press on alone. ##Now that we’ve been here a while, we’ve begun to be aware of broad social issues, and are faced with the challenge of navigating amongst them, given the various constraints upon our understanding. Racism, for example. Many people have immigrated to Portugal from its former colonies, like Mozambique and Angola, and are the targets of racism. That much, we think we know. But to what extent? What form does it take? And most pressing for me: How does it affect housing? How should it affect the decisions of an organization like Habitat for Humanity? At what point is it appropriate for one to say to one’s hosts, "You have a speck in your eye." (Matthew 7:3). These are questions to be prayed about. ##Habitat has become a family affair: Debbie has agreed to help look for real estate for our next project and Austin has been volunteering in the office and helping me by making some of the phone calls I can’t make because of my weak Portuguese. (The north of Portugal is known for the people’s thick, rural accent. Construction workers and tradespeople tend to take this to an extreme. They do not sound like our language tapes. I am so impressed with Austin, that she is willing to discuss with them technical building information over the phone! She is a champion!) Please pray that God is glorified by our work together (Matthew 5:16). ##Despite our collaboration, Debbie and I are not getting time together. It’s a puzzle we need to solve. Please pray for us. ##Debbie tweaked her back. Please pray for her quick recovery. ##Austin just returned from a church youth retreat. I should have asked you to pray for that last week. But I often pray for things after it’s "too late." I figure God, who is outside of time and invented it, is not constrained by it. May He bless you this week and give you grace to trust entirely in Him
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Dec 2 16:16:29 2001
The way is open for each of us to be a mighty man or woman of God, a person who brings to bear upon every situation the very presence of the living God. Our lives can and should be characterized by supernatural power and peace and joy. We ought to leave behind us the impression that something extraordinary has happened, the impression of the Holy Spirit. "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe." (Ephesians 6:10, 1:17-19). ##I suppose every city has its ironies: Seattle is supposed to be laid-back, and yet people drink coffee from gallon containers. The growth industry in Braga is driving schools—every fifth car is a student driver—and yet the drivers are horrendous. A favorite game is seeing how close you can get to the car in front of you at 160 kph, before they move over. ##Next Saturday evening, Lord willing, will be the first of what we hope will be monthly Habitat prayer meetings, where people concerned about Habitat’s ministry here in Braga join together to ask God for His blessing, direction and provision. This could be a fantastic opportunity for people from different churches to come together in prayer. Please pray that it is so. ##Debbie’s back is extremely fragile. Please continue to pray for her return to full strength. ##There’s more confusion and uncertainty about Austin’s school situation. Please pray that God will get her into college. ##Please pray for Drex and his handling of a difficult situation at school: there is a little boy in his class, Marciano, one of our friends from the São José home for boys, who the other children mistreat because he is black. They call him the Portuguese equivalent of nigger, right in front of the teacher, and she does nothing. Drex has stood up for Marciano, and some of his classmates have said that they will not play with Drex if he plays with Marciano. We have promised him that God will bless him for doing what is right. Please pray with us that He will. ##It is such a huge, huge blessing to have you praying for us. We cannot thank you enough. We do, however, pray that "the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13).
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Dec 10 07:31:46 2001
It is, perhaps, culturally revealing to compare the respective ways that construction people in the United States and in Portugal express the sentiment, "That is not a problem. It can be done quickly and easily," which is a sentiment that construction people like to express. In Portugal, one holds up one’s hands as if delicately tapping with hammer and chisel upon stone, putting the finishing touches on a piece of statuary, and one says, "Tick, tick, tick," sometimes even with one’s pinky aloft. In other words, "Three light taps of the hammer and it’ll be finished, no problem." People use this expression when the work in question has nothing to do with hammers. The equivalent expression in America is, "Boom, boom, boom!" As in, "We pour the foundation and boom, boom, boom, up go the walls," or, "We showed up at 8, and boom, boom, boom, in went the doors." Presumably, the work needn’t have anything to do with explosives. ##We had our first Habitat prayer meeting Saturday evening. It is so fun and so exciting to pray together! When people call upon the Lord together, anything can happen. There were three of us there. Well, four (Matthew 18:20). We prayed for many things, including for Senhor Aníbal Mechado, a member of our board of directors and construction committee, whose spinal column will be operated on Thursday. Please join us in praying for him. Please pray, too, that this gathering becomes a place where people from different churches, especially Catholic and Protestant, come together and lift up their hearts as one to God. The plan is to meet the second Saturday of every month from 6:30-7:30 p.m. That’s 10:30 a.m. in Seattle, 11:30 a.m. in Denver, and 1:30 p.m. in Detroit and Washington, D.C., and the next one will be January 12—if the Lord wills— in case you’d like to join us. May God bless you for your loving prayer support. ##There is a wonderful richness to celebrating Advent in a place where it has been celebrated for thousands of years. Braga is packed with churches and the entire year is acted out to the accompaniment of bells, but when the old stones reverberate with news of the coming Messiah, it stirs one’s heart! Please pray that the people of northern Portugal, and especially the young people, hear the new song that God is playing this year (Psalm 40:3, Isaiah 42:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17) and not just the same old dreary tunes. ##Debbie’s parents had planned to be here for Christmas, but it appears as if problems with her dad’s eyes will prevent it. Drex is still praying that they will come on schedule. Schedules are funny things, aren’t they? "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps," (Proverbs 16:9). We know they will come on God’s schedule. Please ask God to restore her dad’s vision and health. Thankfully, Debbie’s sister, Cindy, is still planning to be here to celebrate Christmas with us. We are very excited to see her! ##Debbie had a "good back week," thanks be to God, and to you for your prayers. She and I got to spend some time together, too, which was delightful. We are planning our twentieth wedding anniversary for August 2002, and we’re thinking of taking the family to Disneyland, Paris. That way, Austin could watch Drex and we could have a nice dinner in Paris the evening of the big day, which seems to me like an appropriate way to celebrate a twentieth wedding anniversary. ##Drex and Austin are well, thanks be to God, but I won’t ramble any more this week. May God bless you as you anticipate the celebration of the coming of His Anointed One!
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Name: Jord
Date: Wed Dec 12 11:37:32 2001
Some of you may remember Drex's difficulties with his knees. He limped through much of the soccer season in Seattle last autumn. Well, he's limping around again, poor guy. It's only his right knee at the moment, but historically he's had trouble with both intermitently. Sometimes they hurt, sometimes they just don't function. We did the doctor run- around in Seattle and came up with nothing. Please pray for his healing. Muito obrigado (Thank you very much).
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Dec 16 16:17:10 2001
I imagine that the job of creating and operating the universe is a complicated one, so I like to avoid, whenever possible, guessing why God does what He does. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Romans 11:33). So I hesitate to suggest that God might have kept Austin out of the University of Coimbra this year just so that she could be here in Braga to help the rest of us through this transition, but it did occur to me this week how difficult and lonely this would be without her and what an enormous encouragement and support she has been. ##Speaking of having people with us, please pray for Debbie’s sister, Cindy, and her trip here. She is due to arrive next Sunday. We can hardly wait to see her. Pray that her trip is a blessing to her. ##We dads like to think of ourselves as capable fellows and it’s nice when life affords us opportunities to demonstrate that capableness, in order that our families, and especially our children, might share our opinion of ourselves. So when Drex told me as I walked him to school that a girl in his class, Marianna, had taken his pencil and would not return it, I would have liked to have handled the situation with that diplomatic mingling of assurance and humor that befits a grown up dealing with children. But this is not possible when one has the vocabulary of a two- year-old. Assaying my resources, I saw with dismay that I was faced with a choice between doing nothing and being shown impotent before my son, or on the other hand, starting an international incident by smashing Marianna to smithereens. Thankfully, before I had to make this awful decision alone, two other dads (one of whom happened to be Marianna’s), sensing that a member of their fraternity was in distress, interceded with exactly the grace I lacked, and settled things on my behalf. Drex got his pencil, Marianna got her gentle reprimand, and the ebenezer of fatherhood was held aloft. ##We have been trying to give Debbie regular back massages. Those, in combination with your prayers, seem to be helping. Thank you. ##The disability of the week was Drex’s knees, which kept him limping. We pray and look for his complete healing, but we also know that Jesus Himself, "although He was a Son, learned obedience from what He suffered," (Hebrews 5:8), and that God uses infirmities to teach us many things(2 Corinthians 12:9). ##At the jobsite, I am trying to hire subcontractors to help me finish up details that do not make good work for volunteers. Please ask God to raise up those people and to open the door on our next project. ##Most importantly, please continue to pray for revival in northern Portugal; that the story of Christmas would find its mark in the hearts of many this year. ##The Lord bless you and keep you. Thank you again for your prayers and your love.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Dec 23 11:56:23 2001
We have a neighbor in Seattle, Karen Fergason, who is an ambassador for Christ in many ways. One of her primary ministries is her Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Ministry. This is not purely a matter of gastronomy: there is evidence that suggests it was Chocolate Chip Banana Bread that convinced the young St. Augustine of the existence of God (see, The Confessions, p. 37). When we lived across the street from the Fergasons, Debbie and Austin would at intervals stand before our front window and carry on in a manner reminiscent of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. This was the Banana Bread Dance. Dependably, warm Chocolate Chip Banana Bread would arrive soon thereafter. (Whereas men enjoy CCBB, many believe it interacts with the female chemistry in a way that creates dependence). About October, after several months in Portugal, we noticed an emptiness in our lives that was not difficult to diagnose. Austin emailed Karen and implored her for the CCBB recipe. The recipe itself reads like classic Karen Fergason—"Mash bananas. Add ingredients. Pour in loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees 60 to 70 minutes"—who, with two small children, does not have time to combine dry ingredients and set them aside. Alas, chocolate chips are not made in Iberia, so we are dependent upon imports from Chocolate Chip Producing Nations. Thankfully, the Peters and Purdy families have kept the pipeline open. We have given CCBB to some here in Braga as a Christmas gift. The women in the Habitat office credit it with curing their rheumatism and helping them stop smoking, but some of them are not believers and we are praying it begins in them what it began in Augustine. (Philippians 1:6). #####We just arrived home from the airport with Debbie’s sister Cindy, our first ever visitor to Portugal from the U.S! It is wonderful to have her with us for Christmas. Drex has been jumping up and down with anticipation for thirty-six hours. Debbie is in the other room now trying to persuade him to leave Cindy alone long enough for her to take a little nap. She failed. She is going to bring him a sandwich and he is going to eat it and then lie down and rest right next to her. Sounds like Austin may squeeze in on the other side, but, having seen, "O Senhor Dos Aneis" (The Lord of the Rings) Friday, the day it opened here, she will certainly be reading her beloved Tolkien, which was among the books she has been pining for for months and that Cindy brought from storage in Seattle. Meanwhile, Clarece, the cat, climbed up on the dining room table and finished the smoked salmon Cindy brought. This was met with astonishing calm—-Cindy brought six smoked salmon. She also brought an enormous box of Christmas stuff from our friends in Seattle. Love just poured out of the thing as soon as we cut the duct tape. One feels intensely the enormous gap between oneself and anyone worthy of such attentions, helpless, overwhelmed with the impossibility of expressing thanks enough. We arranged the packages around the tree, squeezing each one, receiving from it the squeezes with which it was packed. #####In Portugal, the kids are smarter than in America. Rather than allowing their parents to go to sleep Christmas eve so that it is necessary to rouse them early Christmas morning, they simply keep them up and make a dash for the packages at the stroke of midnight. It will be interesting to see how traditions mingle here at our house this year. With everyone else in Portugal, we will eat codfish, or "bacalhau," which is something of a religion here. Portugal is to cod what America is to oil. When times were simpler and oceans weren’t overfished, it was a staple of the poor. Now it is derigueur and costs about the same as rent. Grocery stores devote roughly 15% of their floor space to mountains of the huge dehydrated slabs, which look better suited to roof shingling than to eating. A house with bacalhau shingles would have big trouble with cats, but no trouble from solicitors—-it smells terrible. Debbie has been soaking ours for days. #####I am looking forward to a week off from work and to catching up on correspondence. I have almost all our Christmas cards—a ritual I love—still to do. Writing cards and letters has been a rich part of my time in Portugal. It makes me feel a little bit like Hugh Lofting, who wrote illustrated stories to his children from the front lines in World War I, and a little bit like the main character of those stories, Dr. John Dolittle, the great adventurer. #####As the year comes to a close, our families are still not in their Habitat houses, which is a great disappointment to many. But they are receiving from Associação Humanitaria Habitat, in exchange for twenty year no interest mortgages of about $30,000, beautiful homes worth at least two or three times that much, so we mustn’t feel too badly. Please pray for our plumber, João Lopes, of whom I was so fond back when he was playing a minor supporting role (see June 24, above), but who has been invisible for six weeks now that he’s got some real work to finish up. I have come to what I think is a better understanding of the Habitat dance. For a long time I wondered by what Habitat magic these houses were going to get finished, now that the seasonal volunteer supply has all but dried up. Mary Engelking, from headquarters in Budapest, helped me see that building relationships with professionals in the building community, relationships that often begin with hiring those professionals to help, can be an important part of the affiliate’s growth. So, with a lot of help from Austin on the phone, I am trying to get the pros in there to make quick work of it. Please pray that God makes it so. #####Richest Christmas blessings to you, dear friends. "May the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21).
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Dec 30 17:19:18 2001
Many men from Eastern Europe have immigrated to Portugal to find work. On weekends, you see them gathered in the center of the city: tall, angular, fair, shorthaired, distinctly un-Portuguese looking. (Many times I have been asked if I am Ukrainian). Some come to our church. I am drawn to them by what we have in common: we are large, we are outsiders, we speak Portuguese poorly. But I am also drawn to them because of our differences: they have been driven west by economic necessity, many leaving wives and children, not knowing when, if, or how their families will be reunited. They live packed into apartments provided for them by construction bosses, hoping to save enough money to begin a new life. Today I had two separate conversations—one at church and one this evening when we crossed paths in the center of town—with Stefan, from the Ukraine. He must have asked me twelve times, "Porque?" "Why?" "Why did you leave the United States and come to Portugal?" He could not understand why anyone would leave America, where there is so much money. Luciano, another man who comes to our church regularly, is from Romania. Today he showed me a photograph of he and his family—wife Graciana, two-year-old son, Roberto, and eight-month-old daughter, Rebecca, taken in September, just before he left for Portugal. He said it is difficult to be away from them, and he blinked back tears. I promised him that I would pray that God would reunite them quickly. Will you please pray with me? #####If I were writing the script here, I probably would have swept into Braga, picked up the language, wrapped up the twelve houses in Palmeira, started another twelve, and would be featured in non-smoking commercials alongside Figo, from the Portuguese national soccer team, recently named the best player in the world (Don’t ask me by whom). Instead, I can just manage to find the bathroom and order lunch. For almost everything else I am dependent upon others for help. This is the best thing that could have happened to Habitat. Instead of me putting on a one-man show, everyone is having to help out in ways that challenge them and strengthen the organization. My way would have been a lot more efficient, at least in the short run. #####We got a cable modem this week. That means, for a fraction of what it has been costing to use the phone line for the Internet, we will have fast Internet access continually. Debbie tried to surprise me by setting it up so that when I got up the morning after it was installed I would be greeted with, "Good morning, I’m Bob Edwards. It’s Friday, December 28, and this is Morning Edition," but she ran into technical difficulties. Nevertheless, living overseas is not what it used to be. #####Drex has been getting around well. Thank you for praying for his knees. Debbie’s back seems to have been much better, though she’s missed some massages in the Holiday swirl. Again, praise God and thank you for your prayers. #####Cindy’s visit has been wonderful, though it will be difficult to say goodbye tommorrow, especially for Drex, who will need to be surgically removed from her. #####God’s best to you in 2002. Many thanks for your prayers and love for us.
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