Kleber 2003 Prayer and Praise Archive

Return to Main Menu

Return to Current Updates

2003 Archive


Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jan 5 11:47:29 2003
It is a dark and stormy morning in Braga. It’s typical winter weather. You may recall from past conversations that it’s supposed to rain 30% more here than it does in Seattle. I believe it. Most days, however, include a few happy, welcome sunbreaks. The sun comes out and steam rises from the concrete and stone walls and tile roofs. The ladies on our street stand against the stone wall opposite our house in the direct sun and thaw themselves. ##### We hope your New Year’s celebration was blessed. We were with Austin at her church in Lisbon, enjoying the hospitality of her friends and their families there. Austin is now in the midst of final exams. She thinks she passed her first one, in microeconomics. Please pray that they continue to go well. ##### Debbie’s sister Cindy flew out on Thursday morning. We are so thankful she was able to come again this year. Once again, it was the highlight of our Christmas. ##### This week’s high society news is that Debbie’s Portuguese language class buddy Angelo and his wife had us over for lanche (afternoon tea and snack) yesterday. Angelo is a retired three- star general in the Italian Air Force and his Portuguese wife is head of the international relations department at the University of Minho here in Braga, specializing since 1999 in Arab terrorism. She spoke slowly, used small words, and provided translation in English or Italian as necessary, so the rest of us could understand what she was saying. They expressed real interest in attending the little monthly Catholic gathering I’ve mentioned here before, the one that reminds me of the Catholic community that got me started with spiritual things back in college, with lively praise music and an informal atmosphere. I’ve written myself a note to invite them next month. ##### Our theme of the week is uncertainty. Everything in our lives seems uncertain right now, except for One. Thankfully, only One thing is necessary (Luke 10:42). That One thing is Christ, our life (Colossians 3:4). ##### At Habitat, the Board of Directors has decided to aggressively move ahead to purchase land and build houses, which is exciting. Thank you for praying about that. Now we will find out whether it’s too late. We have almost enough money to get through this month. Unless God does something dramatic very soon, we’ll have to close our doors. Please ask Him to provide the resources necessary for us to continue to serve families in need in His name. ###### To add to the uncertainty, Debbie and I are praying about whether we can really afford to continue working for Habitat even if God does deliver it from death. ##### And if He does not, well, we continue to feel as if we are not finished in Portugal yet, as if God has more for us to do and learn here, even if I do find myself unemployed. Debbie has begun investigating her job possibilities. With her technical and business background, she is more employable here than I, though her limited language skills still pose a problem. I would probably be the one with the flexible job that would enable me to attend to domestic things and Drex’s needs. ##### Thanks for praying. May the Lord bless you this week and throughout 2003.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jan 12 15:34:25 2003
One issue for me amidst the current financial crisis at Habitat is my theological aversion to fundraising. It’s the same as my aversion to the offering we take in church: in my opinion, it makes God, the Giver and Provider of all things, out to be a Panhandler in the eyes of those who do not know Him. He and His followers get lumped with all the other people clamoring for money. I like the George Mueller model. (He operated orphanages caring for hundreds of children, never asking provision of anyone but God.) Is that just spiritual vanity? Or is it appropriate to say to God, as we did regarding our move to Portugal, “God, we’d love to do it. But we’d only like to do what You have in mind for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). If You’d like it done, You’ll have to pay for it. If You don’t, we’ll assume You have other fruitful work for us to undertake.” There’s plenty of Kingdom work that costs nothing and cries out to be done. Might we not “successfully” fund raise for work that God would not care to see continued? This is the philosophy of the Navigators, the evangelical organization with whom the Leaf family, the previous occupants of this house, serve. When they were preparing to come to Portugal, they asked only God for the money they needed. As He did for us when we were praying about coming here, God raised up people who volunteered the necessary resources, providing a clear indication of His will. Why should Habitat be different? Please ask God to instruct us. ##### There is a lemon tree in our back yard literally dripping lemons. We can’t keep up with them. We pick sacks and baskets full and give them away to neighbors, friends, and unsuspecting passersby. The Leafs say the tree bears lemons twelve months a year. The chances of that lemon tree not bearing lemons are extremely remote. They are approximately equivalent to the chances of a Christian not bearing fruit. It’s not going to happen. Jesus said, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit.” That’s a great comfort to me. So much time seems to be spent fruitlessly. It’s helpful for me to remember the lemon tree, just standing still, knowing that God is God (Psalm 46:10), dripping fruit. ##### Austin presses ahead with final exams. Two down, one to go. She thinks they’ve gone O.K. She has accomplished this without the daily cell phone, “I love you,” text messages she’s accustomed to getting from her father. This is because a number was transposed in her father’s brain with the result that he’s been sending “I love you” messages to a Portuguese stranger, who sent several irate text responses over several days using unfamiliar Portuguese words, before Debbie translated one of them and got things back on track. Nevertheless, we can pray for Austin’s last exam. ##### Drex is loving school and his friends there and his teacher, thanks be to God. The schedule, class from 9-12, rumpus from 12-2, class from 2-4, is ideal for an active guy. He got a very good report card this week that came with an encouraging conversation with his professora who is very pleased with the way Drex is progressing. Debbie’s sister Cindy left us a book, published in 1958, of 700 science experiments using household items. We’ve been having fun launching pencils with close pins and having static electricity horse races. ##### Between her own inactivity and the uncertainty at Habitat Debbie is close to losing her mind. Twice this week she stayed up until 5 a.m. (not that unusual for her) writing various business plans as a sort of “spreadsheet therapy.” Please pray for her. ##### It’s great to have you praying for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The Lord bless and keep you and make His face to shine upon you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: jord
Date: Sun Jan 19 14:42:19 2003
The Bible tells us that we may take heart, even rejoice, in our difficulties, because God uses them to impart things essential to the spiritual life (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4). Through our present difficulties at Habitat, God is teaching me to pray as I have never prayed before. Not more intensely, exactly, but with greater abandon, a greater sense that our survival depends entirely upon Him. There is a certain exhilaration in this, like careening down a snowy bank on a toboggan—think of one of those great snow scenes from Calvin and Hobbes. It will be a miracle if it doesn’t end in a bloody collision. Gathering speed, we come first to a huge boulder called Land to Build Upon. It’s too late to steer around. God will either have to give us wings or enable us to pass through it, the way Jesus used to pass through doors (John 20:19). Álvaro and I met on Thursday with José Cunha, President of a district of Braga called Crespos. He showed us three pieces of land—including one where we might build eight houses—that he said he would give us if the houses were for families from Crespos. Incredible! Was that a boulder we just passed through?! #### But tobogganing is wearying for everyone, and we need your prayers, that Jesus would give us rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28), now more than ever. #### The garden has taught me another valuable spiritual lesson. I have come to understand that my work maintaining our yard and garden is not a matter of finishing tasks. When I have taken a task-oriented approach to the garden, I have ended in despair. I tried to spend time out there on Saturdays, but it was never enough. As quickly as I pulled them out, the weeds grew back. The lemon tree covered the ground with rotten fruit. The lawn grew out of control. Everything went to seed. So I resolved to spend a few minutes—maybe fifteen—working in the garden each day. Immediately, the work was transformed from a grisly enterprise consisting exclusively of killing and clearing, to one of care. I’m not out there to finish anything. In fact, it’s nice to leave something half-finished so that it’s easy to see where to begin tomorrow. I’m there to care for things. I unhurriedly move about, pruning, hoeing, planting, praying. After a little while, I come inside. It is an excellent thing to do each day. ##### To my delight, I’ve discovered that this spirit of care is applicable elsewhere. I’ve been trying to go about my work at Habitat with the same unhurried sense that my job is to plant and water and God’s job is to bring the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7). ##### Dwelling on good things, we read in the Bible, can have supernatural results, including a sense of peace (Philippians 4:8). One thing that reliably has this affect upon me is the sound of children playing on a playground. My favorite thing by far about our old apartment on Rua de Damão was the playground of Drex’s school directly across the street. Some afternoons, doing paperwork in the apartment, the sun’s slanting rays and the chirruping song of the children would come in through the open window, and this lonely, distant, unfamiliar city felt hospitable. Just bringing that happy sound to mind now lifts my spirits. ##### Speaking of simple things that afford me intense pleasure, another is our Sabbath candle. Lighting a candle at sundown Saturday and keeping it burning (whenever one of us is around) until sundown Sunday is a practice we picked up about ten years ago from Marva Dawn’s wonderful book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, but had discontinued for a while. Marva Dawn got it from the Jews. The candle keeps me in mind of a bunch of good things about God: His quiet presence, His warmth, His affection, His peace, His attention to our corporal as well as our spiritual needs, our rest in Him. There it is, all day Sunday, glowing, in the corner of your eye, at once natural and supernatural. Beautifully simple and yet intensely suggestive. Try it. ##### Austin’s exams have been a screaming success. Thank you for your prayers. Her scores in microeconomics and history were well above average. She is very happy. ##### Thank you for being with us in spirit, and for praying for us. May the Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jan 26 16:29:19 2003
In this paragraph, I will be speaking only to men. If you are a woman, skip this paragraph. It used to be, when it came time to offer advice to male friends preparing to marry, I told them to sit down whenever they go to the bathroom. This advice has been widely lampooned, but it is good advice. There is no way to calculate the enormity of the price men pay over the course of a marriage through their capacity to make a mess. I fear this phenomenon strikes wives with fresh horror each week, that it is something to which they never fully acclimate. And how many opportunities to do good does a man get that require only that he sit down? But I am improving upon my advise: Stand if you wish, but whether you stand or not, each week, clean the bathrooms. Since Austin left for college in September, I have taken over her responsibility for cleaning the bathrooms (we have two) each week. It is the first thing I do on Saturday, because it is the thing I enjoy the least, to rather dramatically understate the facts. But I doubt that I make a better investment in my own spiritual wellbeing, or the spiritual wellbeing of my family. Notice that when He gave us spiritual exercises, Jesus did not give us the Twelve Stations of the Cross. He gave us foot washing. Cleaning the bathrooms is the modern equivalent of footwashing. It requires similar posture, corporally and spiritually. It illicits that same distinctive admixture of revulsion and certainty, which sometimes attends the will of God. Some may know the feeling from experience changing diapers. Women know it well, which is one reason they are generally more spiritually astute. (One significant benefit of becoming acquainted with this sensation is that, having done so, one is less likely to confuse it with its cousin, which is a mixture of revulsion and uncertainty.) The most important reason though, to clean the bathrooms, is that when you are finished and your wife goes into the bathroom and closes the door (Matthew 6:6), she will be blessing, rather than cursing you. ##### Austin is in America, experiencing some measure of what the books call “Reverse Culture Shock.” Upon arrival, she found Americans (almost frighteningly) friendly, blond, and large. After receiving her report, I realized that while living in Portugal we must be becoming slowly, ineluctably, less friendly, darker, and smaller. So in order to preserve my cultural identity--a sort of cultural callisthenic-- I resolved to greet at least a few people each day in my usual, irrational, ebullient, American way. It is interesting to note the similarity between both Americans and Portuguese and the geography of the countries from which they come. Americans take up a lot of space, not just because they are large, but also because they tend to bear themselves in an expansive fashion. When they sit down, they spread out, in their relaxed, friendly way, and their voices carry, effectively extending their domain. The Portuguese, while not timid, tend to carry themselves with a certain studied disinclination to draw attention to themselves. They keep to themselves, well-contained, erect, the way Portugal sits unobtrusively on the periphery of European geography. One wonders whether Italians, after one gets to know them, seem like shoes. Please pray that Austin’s trip is a blessing. ##### Today Drex got his first real Bible, or Bíblia, and he is delighted with it, in all of its details: the clean smooth cover, the wonderful crinkly thin pages, the place ribbons, and best of all, the fact that he can read it. He immediately began marking his favorite passages. Please pray that the Word of God takes root in his heart and that it bears much fruit. ##### Thank you for loving us and for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Feb 2 16:16:11 2003
God and I have been discussing expectation. My prayers often lack expectation. Take Habitat for example. We’re praying that God will give us the resources we need to continue to build houses for families in need in the name of Jesus Christ. I hope He does. I half expect He will, which is why I wasn’t surprised when José Cunha, president of Crespos, a district of Braga, said he wants to give us land. But there’s still only money to keep us in business through March. And it’s time to tell Global Village volunteer teams to make plans to travel here this summer to help us build. Do we tell them to come? Our answer to that question will be based largely on our expectations. Do we expect God to answer our prayers or not? Some Christians would argue that we should not necessarily expect it. He may not want us to continue building. That may not be His will. He may have other things in Mind. But God loves work on behalf of the poor (Isaiah 58:10). Habitat for Humanity can be a circus at times, but in bringing together thousands and thousands of people to love and serve one another, it is, essentially, an unmitigated good. There is every reason to believe that God would like it to continue here. Jesus said we should expect the things for which we pray (Mark 11:23-24) and that our expectations will affect outcomes (Matthew 14:31). I can tell whether I’m expecting something. Expectation is like when we’re traveling and I’m all eyes and ears, open, taking everything in, anxious to see what will happen next. I could be like that all the time. I could decide to expect, based on what I know of Him, that God will answer my prayers, including my prayers for Habitat. I would behave differently. The widow who gave everything she had to live on expected that God would answer her prayers (Mark 12:43-44). She went out on a limb. So would I. ##### I lost my temper with Alvaro this week. I had committed that great relational sin: by not discussing problems as they arose, I had allowed several to accumulate. So when I looked as if I were going to kill him over a minor transgression, Alvaro thought I had lost my mind. Clear demonstrations that we are far from perfect should never take us quite so much by surprise as they do. But things seem to go so nicely for a while and you think you’re getting it and then you go and throw yourself in the mud all over again. It’s a yucky feeling. But O glorious morn! It feels so good to come back and repent and confess that one is weak and foolish and be cleansed (1 John 1:9) and remember that one is not supposed to be Bob the Perfect Builder, but just a poor man following Jesus, a man who once was blind, but now sees (John 9:25). You can pray that Alvaro forgives me and that I have not done any permanent damage. ##### Drex has a tendency to criticize his own work, especially when he is drawing. This week I began insisting that he be as gracious towards himself as he would be with anyone else. We would never allow him to speak injuriously about the work of a friend or a sibling. We would ask him to be encouraging. We want this to be a safe place where everyone can experiment and learn new things. That can’t happen if you’re getting run down every time you put pencil to paper, no matter who’s doing the criticizing. I pray that we can all learn to be more encouraging with ourselves. ##### Please pray for Austin’s last couple of days in Seattle. She has found it a little emotionally difficult to be there. Along with being reminded of how much she misses her family and friends, she has discovered, I think, that she is what the books call a “Third Culture Kid.” That’s a kid who is culturally divided between two or more cultures. They find themselves without a culture of their own, or only culturally concerted with other third culture kids, who are not easy to come by. This leads to multiple personalities, insanity and death. No, just kidding, but you can sure pray for her, that God will be her dwelling place and her refuge. ##### Debbie has a meeting Thursday with a local software company called Enabler, just to chat, or interface, or whatever it is software people do when they meet. Please pray that the meeting goes well and that everyone is upgraded (encouraged). ##### Thank you again for praying for us. May the Lord bless you this week and fill you with expectation and hope.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Feb 9 15:11:32 2003
Austin is sick in Seattle. She was scheduled to return to Portugal Tuesday to register for classes that begin tomorrow, but she had a 104º temperature. The doctors don’t know what’s wrong, but they think it’s a repeat of a mysterious virus she in the early summer of 2001. They’ve given her drugs, including powerful antibiotics, which she has had difficulty keeping down. She’s staying with Debbie’s parents who are nursing her and ferrying her back and forth to medical facilities in Seattle, a two hour trip each way. Her next doctor’s appointment is Tuesday. There’s no telling when she’ll return to Portugal. It’s tough to be so far away when she’s sick, but it’s much better to be dealing with this through the medical system in Seattle than to be trying to figure it out here. Please pray for her rapid recovery. ##### When Portuguese advertisers take to the streets they blanket the cities with small billboards. One current offering shows a voluptuous young woman in the final throws of tearing off her clothes. Her performance at roughly half of Braga’s several hundred bus stops, as well as numerous other locations, owes itself, the advertisers would like us to remember, to the singular quality of her few remaining underthings. The effect of her image is only slightly less obtrusive than if she were disrobing at the bus stops in person. The man who would marshal his attentions on behalf of his wife and family is under constant assault. Portuguese people do not generally tear their clothes off at bus stops. Doesn’t it seem obvious that doing so is not culturally appropriate? Why must people who do not tear their clothes off in public wait for the bus alongside someone who does? Why are advertisers permitted to appear in public behaving in ways that would get the rest of us arrested? ##### We asked our faithful Seattle car care friend, John Fergason, to get Debbie’s car, which has been rusting on blocks for a year and a half, road-ready in preparation for shipment to Portugal. Thanks to John, it’s ready to go, but the customs authorities here have not yet acquiesced to its importation, so we’re praying for someone to drive it in Seattle for a while. Will you please pray, too, and let us know if you know anyone there who could use a nice old sedan. ##### Debbie’s meeting with the software company Enabler was postponed because the Big Cheese was out of town. She was disappointed. Please pray that the meeting gets rescheduled soon and that it is fruitful. ##### God did not open for us the windows of heaven and pour out money until it overflowed (Malachi 3:10) this week, so the question of how He intends Habitat Braga to continue building houses after March still looms large. We will continue to press ahead expecting Him to provide until He directs our energies elsewhere. ##### At the same time, it appears as if I may have a job offer if Habitat does run out of money. The Foundation affiliated with our church, which operates a preschool, a music school, a daycare program for the elderly, and numerous foster homes, among other things, has received government funding for a program working with troubled youths from 12 to 20, using diverse creative nonconventional means like art, music, sports and camping, to build relationships and lives. They’ve hired a small female psychologist to operate the program but they’d like a larger male person to help with the fellas. They approached me. It wouldn’t pay much, but it might satisfy my craving for encouraging people in spiritual things. Please ask God to show us whether we should seriously consider it. ##### Thank you for your prayers, especially for Austin. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Feb 16 15:05:14 2003
1. Austin receives more test results Tuesday in the ongoig search for a diagnosis. She is regaining her strength. She has even thought about studying a bit for the classes she’s missing. 2. Debbie left her job teaching English at the Wall Street Institute for a variety of reasons, including: 1) they don’t pay their employees and, 2) we like to have dinner together. 3. We traveled to Lisbon Friday to pick up a new used car, a 1988 Peugeot named António, who comes with important advantages over his predecessor, Jane the Renault, including: 1) seatbelts, and, 2) he runs. We drove António to Serra da Estrela (Star Mountain), the highest point in Portugal, where there are large patches of snow and hordes of Portuguese slipping and sliding upon them. We spent last evening and today sliding too. Drex was nearly out of his mind. We slid until our bums bled. 4. I’m tired. I’m going to bed. It is extremely nice of you to read this and pray for us. Please pray for Austin, that God gives her doctors wisdom and heals her quickly. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Feb 23 16:02:45 2003
Prayer and Praise Update Sunday 23 February 2003 www.kleber.com Debbie’s father had been having more and more difficulty getting around each day for a couple of weeks when Debbie’s mom took him to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle Monday. The doctor who saw him diagnosed his condition at a glance and then confirmed with an MRI that a vertebrate was pressing on his spinal cord. Surgery to remove the offending vertebrate and adjust its neighbors would risk paralysis, but not operating would guarantee it, so surgery was Wednesday morning. Now, in case any of you are thinking you might keep your insurance premiums down by not making a claim and just performing this surgery at home, you should know that a spinal column tune up and lube is not quite as straightforward as it sounds. After hearing it described, in fact, one wonders how anyone survives at all. But dad is doing well. He is already walking better than he was before the surgery. Please pray that his recovery continues smoothly. ##### In another episode of General Hospital this week, the doctor from whom Austin was supposed to get test results on Tuesday spent that time delivering a baby instead. Some nerve. Austin’s appointment was rescheduled for this Tuesday. She also managed to arrange an appointment with another doctor, Dr. Infectious Disease, Dr. If-He-Doesn’t-Know-It-Nobody-Does-And-Maybe-You-Can-Get-An- Appointment-For-March-Of-2004, for Wednesday. Please pray that someone can tell Austin what she has and that a way can be found to prevent her from getting it again. ##### For her own part, due to a bad cold, Debbie has been without a voice since Wednesday, so she and I have not talked much about how we’re asking an awful lot of her Mom, who is just off the disabled list herself, expecting her to cover the needs of both Austin and Dad, neither of whom is getting around much, and shouldn’t she be on a plane for Seattle to provide a little encouragement, if not a lot of help. Debbie’s brother Butch and his wife Julie are monitoring the situation there and we’re waiting for the word from them before we send Debbie. Drex and I could certainly manage here by ourselves for a while, albeit in a noisy, dirty, microwave sort of way. Please ask God to tell us how to proceed. ##### We are very thankful for the many offers of help and expressions of love that have come in from you all over the last several weeks. They have been a comfort and an encouragement. ##### When I first spoke with the people at church about the position operating VivArt, the new arts program for troubled youth, I got the impression they needed someone with a passion for organization. That’s not me. But as I prayed about it I realized what they really need is someone with a passion for kids and for helping them discover how each of them is specially gifted by God, who can organize well enough if he needs to. That may be me. We talked again this week. There are still plenty of obstacles to my taking part, not the least of which is that I have a job, but as God has not as yet given us any indication of how He will fund Habitat for Humanity in Braga after the end of March and as VivArt is due to begin about that time, that may not turn out to be much of a problem. Again, please ask God to show us what He’d like us to do. ##### Pray for peace. Thank you for praying for us, too. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Feb 23 16:03:14 2003
Debbie’s father had been having more and more difficulty getting around each day for a couple of weeks when Debbie’s mom took him to Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle Monday. The doctor who saw him diagnosed his condition at a glance and then confirmed with an MRI that a vertebrate was pressing on his spinal cord. Surgery to remove the offending vertebrate and adjust its neighbors would risk paralysis, but not operating would guarantee it, so surgery was Wednesday morning. Now, in case any of you are thinking you might keep your insurance premiums down by not making a claim and just performing this surgery at home, you should know that a spinal column tune up and lube is not quite as straightforward as it sounds. After hearing it described, in fact, one wonders how anyone survives at all. But dad is doing well. He is already walking better than he was before the surgery. Please pray that his recovery continues smoothly. ##### In another episode of General Hospital this week, the doctor from whom Austin was supposed to get test results on Tuesday spent that time delivering a baby instead. Some nerve. Austin’s appointment was rescheduled for this Tuesday. She also managed to arrange an appointment with another doctor, Dr. Infectious Disease, Dr. If-He-Doesn’t-Know-It-Nobody-Does-And-Maybe-You-Can-Get-An- Appointment-For-March-Of-2004, for Wednesday. Please pray that someone can tell Austin what she has and that a way can be found to prevent her from getting it again. ##### For her own part, due to a bad cold, Debbie has been without a voice since Wednesday, so she and I have not talked much about how we’re asking an awful lot of her Mom, who is just off the disabled list herself, expecting her to cover the needs of both Austin and Dad, neither of whom is getting around much, and shouldn’t she be on a plane for Seattle to provide a little encouragement, if not a lot of help. Debbie’s brother Butch and his wife Julie are monitoring the situation there and we’re waiting for the word from them before we send Debbie. Drex and I could certainly manage here by ourselves for a while, albeit in a noisy, dirty, microwave sort of way. Please ask God to tell us how to proceed. ##### We are very thankful for the many offers of help and expressions of love that have come in from you all over the last several weeks. They have been a comfort and an encouragement. ##### When I first spoke with the people at church about the position operating VivArt, the new arts program for troubled youth, I got the impression they needed someone with a passion for organization. That’s not me. But as I prayed about it I realized what they really need is someone with a passion for kids and for helping them discover how each of them is specially gifted by God, who can organize well enough if he needs to. That may be me. We talked again this week. There are still plenty of obstacles to my taking part, not the least of which is that I have a job, but as God has not as yet given us any indication of how He will fund Habitat for Humanity in Braga after the end of March and as VivArt is due to begin about that time, that may not turn out to be much of a problem. Again, please ask God to show us what He’d like us to do. ##### Pray for peace. Thank you for praying for us, too. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Mar 3 08:10:28 2003
Behçet’s Disease. So foreign you can’t type it in America, because the c has a tail (cedilla), which you don’t. So rare only a handful of doctors hear it mentioned beyond first-year infectious disease class. Behçet’s is what Dr. Eschenbach, described here last week as the archangel Gabriel, believes Austin has. We can’t know for sure because there’s no test. You just compare your symptoms to a list of Behçet’s symptoms, and if you score something like 4 out of 11, including at least two of the four deluxe symptoms, you get the Behçet’s baseball cap and membership card. If you like a sad story, pop yourself some popcorn and dial up www.behcetsuk.org, to find out what else you get. It is highly evocative of the very worst parts of the Book of Job. One common theme among the testimonies of Behçet’s sufferers is decades of suffering without a diagnosis. We are extremely thankful to have met Dr. Eschenbach now. We are also very thankful there appear to be Behçet’s resources in Lisbon. ##### Perhaps the least exciting news of the week is that Austin, who we knew was very sick, may have a lower Behçet’s score than Drex, who we thought was relatively healthy. His occasionally dysfunctional knees, his unexplained high fevers, his “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease” that filled his mouth with ulcers, his cyclic fatigue, his rashes, all score Behçet’s points. It tends to be much worse in men. Many Behçet’s sufferers lead reasonably normal lives. Some don’t. ##### To some extent, we have become a Sick Family. One has the feeling one is packing for a trip, perhaps a long, arduous trip. There’s no knowing. Our route will be at a right angle to the course we were pursuing yesterday, the course every normal family pursues. Normalcy, yesterday the street you lived on, today begins to look a little like an exotic south sea island paradise. ##### Each of us prepares for travel differently. Debbie’s preparations are managerial. She gathers information. Information is a sedative and gathering it is cathartic. My preparations are ministerial. I give extra attention to the observance of family rituals like eating and praying together. It’s important to me that we all try to be nice to one another and to every one else. Let us extend grace that we may receive it. I also check the theology. More than any other single piece of equipment, the theology may take a buffeting. One expects it will withstand the storm (Matthew 7:24-25). Perhaps it will hold up better if we verify now that the pieces are securely fastened, neither too loosely nor too tightly: Suffering is the graduate school of spirituality (Hebrews 5:8). God allows His kids to suffer in order to humble them and to prove their faith (Deuteronomy 8:2-3) and in order to display His work in their lives (John 9:3). He allows His kids to suffer because broken vessels are better fit for bearing His grace, because they leak, spilling grace abroad, whereas intact vessels retain His grace within themselves (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Romans 8:18 and 1 Corinthians 4:16, like trail mix, will be nice to have along. None of this may be any help to Austin, however, when pain eclipses everything else. At such times she may have to subsist on nothing but “Jesus loves me.” Please pray that God comforts and encourages her and that He eradicates all symptoms from her body. ##### Though we’re beginning the trip together we will have to fan out. We will be covering some of the same territory, but we will not be able to remain together. Everyone must take their own path. For now, Debbie will stick closer to Austin, will know when she is crying and will cry with her. We will help her up when she falls. But of course neither of us can walk Austin’s path for her, much as we’d like to. Only God can really share Austin’s suffering. All I’d really like to do is bring her soup and read her stories. Drex will have the course of his life changed dramatically again without any clear sense why. I expect this will leave him with a suitcase full of uncertainty, some of which we can unpack as we go, some of which he’ll have to unpack at some point himself. ##### Even as the uncertainties multiply like the heads of the Hydra, some are eliminated: we certainly don’t want to return to America as long as Austin is in school here. ##### Thanks for journeying with us. The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Mar 9 14:39:37 2003
Performers can draw tremendous energy from a friendly crowd. For those of us who grew up in Michigan, 100,000 fans crammed into the University of Michigan football stadium serves as our benchmark. Imagine living in front of an enormous friendly crowd. Every time you do something well, or even threaten to do something well, the roar of the crowd and the concerted stomping of their feet would mount in an earth-shaking crescendo. Their affection and enthusiasm would surge through you and give you strength and courage and resolve and impel you beyond ordinary performance. If you are a Christian, this is your reality. God is much bigger than 100,000 Michigan football fans. The life and power of God are pouring forth all around you. This is especially evident in Spring. Every time you do something in love, something motivated by the Spirit of God, something that advances His Kingdom even a little bit, or threaten to do so, the mountains and hills burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12). If you don’t hear it, maybe you’ve gotten distracted. Slow down. Look around. Listen carefully. In faith you’ll hear it (Romans 1:20). ##### Debbie’s in Seattle. She was supposed to surprise Austin Saturday morning with a 20th birthday breakfast in bed, but she broke rank and charged in as soon as she arrived in town Friday. The plan now is for the two of them to return to Lisbon on the 18th. Then we’ll see whether Austin is strong enough to resume classes immediately. Thank you for praying for her complete recovery and the eradication of all symptoms. ##### In order to compensate a little for all the cuddling Drexel’s not getting with Debbie away I allowed him to sleep with me last night. Unfortunately, he had ridden his bike a lot yesterday afternoon, then he dreamed about it. ##### Please pray for my service to Habitat. The wind is just about gone from my Habitat sails. There’s still no indication from God how He will provide for the continuation of our work. We’re doing very little beyond trying not to spend money. I’m finding it difficult to stay focused. ##### America does a lot of things well. Toilets, for example. Every time a toilet is flushed in America a powerful siphon is set in motion that thoroughly evacuates the toilet bowl. Ross Perot surely had this siphon in mind when he coined the expression, “Giant sucking sound.” If you are an American, there is probably nothing you take more for granted. Alas, life in Portugal is very different. When a toilet is flushed in Portugal water runs into the bowl like the tickle before the sneeze. But the sneeze never comes. There is no siphon. Feebly, futily, the water will continue to run as long as you hold the lever. But when you grow tired, much of what was in the bowl remains. Next to every toilet there is a brush in a cup partially filled with a motley stew. These brushes are used to finish the work of the missing siphon. Taken together, they constitute the single most revolting artifact of Western Civilization. One shudders thinking of the density and enormity of their disease. One imagines Bacterial Talk Shows: Host: “You mean your family has been living in that same corner since the Middle Ages?” Guest: “That’s right. I’m descended from some of the great germs of the bubonic plague.” The Bill Gates of Portugal will be the longsuffering individual who circumnavigates elaborate Portuguese import restrictions and brings siphon toilets to these shores. For that person the future is very bright. For the rest of us it is haunted by images of dark bathroom corners. ##### There’s no way for us to adequately express our gratitude for all the care people have shown us recently, on both sides of the Atlantic. God has made us very rich in giving us people who love us so well. Thank you for your prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Mar 9 14:41:46 2003
Performers can draw tremendous energy from a friendly crowd. For those of us who grew up in Michigan, 100,000 fans crammed into the University of Michigan football stadium serves as our benchmark. Imagine living in front of an enormous friendly crowd. Every time you do something well, or even threaten to do something well, the roar of the crowd and the concerted stomping of their feet would mount in an earth-shaking crescendo. Their affection and enthusiasm would surge through you and give you strength and courage and resolve and impel you beyond ordinary performance. If you are a Christian, this is your reality. God is much bigger than 100,000 Michigan football fans. The life and power of God are pouring forth all around you. This is especially evident in Spring. Every time you do something in love, something motivated by the Spirit of God, something that advances His Kingdom even a little bit, or threaten to do so, the mountains and hills burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12). If you don’t hear it, maybe you’ve gotten distracted. Slow down. Look around. Listen carefully. In faith you’ll hear it (Romans 1:20). ##### Debbie’s in Seattle. She was supposed to surprise Austin Saturday morning with a 20th birthday breakfast in bed, but she broke rank and charged in as soon as she arrived in town Friday. The plan now is for the two of them to return to Lisbon on the 18th. Then we’ll see whether Austin is strong enough to resume classes immediately. Thank you for praying for her complete recovery and the eradication of all symptoms. ##### In order to compensate a little for all the cuddling Drexel’s not getting with Debbie away I allowed him to sleep with me last night. Unfortunately, he had ridden his bike a lot yesterday afternoon, then he dreamed about it. ##### Please pray for my service to Habitat. The wind is just about gone from my Habitat sails. There’s still no indication from God how He will provide for the continuation of our work. We’re doing very little beyond trying not to spend money. I’m finding it difficult to stay focused. ##### America does a lot of things well. Toilets, for example. Every time a toilet is flushed in America a powerful siphon is set in motion that thoroughly evacuates the toilet bowl. Ross Perot surely had this siphon in mind when he coined the expression, “Giant sucking sound.” If you are an American, there is probably nothing you take more for granted. Alas, life in Portugal is very different. When a toilet is flushed in Portugal water runs into the bowl like the tickle before the sneeze. But the sneeze never comes. There is no siphon. Feebly, futily, the water will continue to run as long as you hold the lever. But when you grow tired, much of what was in the bowl remains. Next to every toilet there is a brush in a cup partially filled with a motley stew. These brushes are used to finish the work of the missing siphon. Taken together, they constitute the single most revolting artifact of Western Civilization. One shudders thinking of the density and enormity of their disease. One imagines Bacterial Talk Shows: Host: “You mean your family has been living in that same corner since the Middle Ages?” Guest: “That’s right. I’m descended from some of the great germs of the bubonic plague.” The Bill Gates of Portugal will be the longsuffering individual who circumnavigates elaborate Portuguese import restrictions and brings siphon toilets to these shores. For that person the future is very bright. For the rest of us it is haunted by images of dark bathroom corners. ##### There’s no way for us to adequately express our gratitude for all the care people have shown us recently, on both sides of the Atlantic. God has made us very rich in giving us people who love us so well. Thank you for your prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Mar 17 13:40:11 2003
I’m officially part-time with Habitat. Marta and I agreed today that with so little going on it makes sense in order to save Habitat a little money and to give me a chance to see if I can be of help with Vivarte, the arts program for at-risk youth. I’m scheduled to meet Friday with Manuela, the psychologist who’s in charge of that program, to discuss details. Please pray that the meeting and the program bear fruit. ##### Some have asked how I’m doing in the midst of our family’s uncertainties. My best response is an image: I look big and strong, but the truth is my favorite posture is clinging to my Abba’a trouser leg like a five-year- old introvert in a room full of strangers (Romans 8:15). The more strangers, the harder I like to hold on. I’m holding on tight, but I’m getting the help I need. ##### Some have asked what the war looks like from here. The Lisbon office of this news agency is far better qualified and connected to address that question than I, but as that office has been closed temporarily for medical reasons, I will give it a try: Pretty scary. The Portuguese have aligned themselves with America because they like where that will leave them when the sand settles, but most people here think George Bush is a gunslinger and wish he had studied more and watched fewer films. But they are resigned to the fact that it’s too late for that now. Praying people are praying. ##### Jesus picked the right metaphor when he told prospects, “From now on you will be catching men,” (Luke 5:10). The allure fishing has for boys is fantastic. Drex and I have fished maybe 6-10 times in Portugal. Except for a few fingerlings near the Spanish border, we’ve been skunked. The last couple of trips we’ve taken along three other boys and brought home no fish. But like trout everywhere, just at sunset the trout on the Rio Cavado begin their feeding ballet, leaping out of the water to gobble bugs. You’d think the boys had seen the Loch Ness Monster. Spirits that were dragging along the beach moments earlier suddenly soar. It’s dark and we must go, but all any of them wants to know is when we’ll be back. I myself am in the hunt for the lifetime record for fishing futility. My first fishing memory is a vague recollection of an outing with my grandfather to a body of water in Illinois so full of panfish that he pulled them out like change from a pocket. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t. Did you see, “A River Runs Through It”? I’ve fished there. I mean right there in the same place in Montana. A bunch. Nothing. I could go on. It gets worse, but the point is that there’s something about the possibility of being connected to something completely wild out of the dark—even if it’s little—that makes boys’ hair stand on end, and keeps them coming back over and over and over. You might reasonably ask, “Shouldn’t a grown-up learn, after so many years and so few fish, that the connection is unlikely, and not worth the trouble and expense?” Certainly yours is the voice of reason. But there is and always has been for me a powerful romantic sense that the well-lived life includes fishing, just as surely as it includes music, and that the requirement can be fulfilled without the cooperation of the fish, if necessary. The sun runs its course, years come and go, men, boys, and all the girls who wanna come, trundle off to fish. This is as it should be. From my grandfather’s frustration to bedlam on the banks of the Rio Cavado, fishing memories are precious and undiminished by your reminding me that I’m paying $225 per pound for trout. ##### Drex and I plan to leave early in the morning to drive to Lisbon to meet Debbie and Austin’s noon plane and do a lot of hugging. Please pray for safe travel for everyone. ##### Thanks for your love and prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Mar 24 16:05:28 2003
Austin has a full plate. She’s back in Lisbon. She’s going to see if she can salvage one class after missing six weeks of her semester. She’s operating at significantly reduced physical capacity. She doesn’t know when her body might betray her again. She must develop some sort of a medical support system and make provision for the possibility of another flare up. She must reconcile these necessities and the presence of pain with promises like, “Because you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent,” (Psalm 91:9-10). I’m so easily blinded by pain, it takes so little discomfort to completely obscure my vision of everything else, that her task looks formidable to me. We know that she can do all things through Him who gives her strength (Philippians 4:13). Please pray that she avails herself of that strength. ##### The current financial crisis at Habitat for Humanity Braga began when Habitat for Humanity International said they were cutting our funding. Two reasons were given: 1) Money is tight everywhere, and 2) We are not a healthy affiliate. This raises two questions: 1) What is a healthy affiliate? And 2) If we were one, would HFHI have money to support us? It now appears as if the answer to question #2 is yes, though it’s not clear how much, and that one answer to question #1 is, “An affiliate with a native person supervising construction.” HFHI has never made of a secret of their strong preference for native construction supervisors and I believe the argument in support of their position is a strong one. As a foreigner I cannot pick up the phone and make things happen the way a local guy can. We’ve been working with local builder who is in sympathy with the Habitat vision. Habitat could buy a percentage of his time, becoming an ongoing client, and gain access not just to his expertise, but to his equipment, his employees, and his network of contacts. Equally as important, he might make us look like a healthier affiliate to HFHI, putting us in a position to receive their financial support. ##### All of this makes it easier for me to say yes to Vivarte, the arts program for at-risk youth being started by the foundation affiliated with our church. I would be responsible for the day to day operation of the program, working with teachers, students, and volunteers and reporting to the psychologist responsible for its direction. Like Habitat for Humanity, the primary objective of the program is building up people—in this case primarily young people—and conveying to them the message of God’s love and their tremendous value in His eyes. I’m down with that. The Habitat mechanism is houses, the Vivarte mechanism is the arts, or perhaps the creative process. Hard to say which mechanism I enjoy more. Of no little importance, if I work for Vivarte, they write the letter that enables us to extend my work visa, which enables us to remain in Portugal. ##### But we can’t live on what Vivarte can pay, so God will have to either give us more money or teach us to live on less. We’ve been here before. Debbie is looking for work, as I have mentioned, and would be very happy to get it, for mental health reasons as much as financial ones. But the bureaucratic obstacles to her employment are such that, if she succeeds in overcoming them, she may have to turn to searching out and destroying international terrorist networks in order to be challenged. We believe God would like us to stay in Portugal. He’s going to have to prove it. Please pray that He does. ##### Of course, most of all, pray for peace. Thank you for your love and prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Thu Apr 3 02:28:25 2003
Good news for those of you who are sitting around, like Maytag Prayer Men, with nothing to pray about because everything is great: you can pray for us! We’re getting hit pretty hard here. In an unnatural concatenation of circumstances, Drex appeared to suffer last week for the first time from what the Behçet’s literature refers to as “floaters,” which portend blindness and sound to me like what the Three Stooges used to call “spots before my eyes.” They came at night and terrified him so that he was unwilling to close his eyes and just lay staring at the bathroom light across the hall, which helped keep the floaters at bay. Thrice in the night he awoke crying out that they were upon him and Debbie had to assure him that there was no one else in the room. The next day, Debbie took him to a very kind ophthalmologist who is familiar with Behçet’s. He concluded Drex’s spots were not floaters and attributed them to fever-induced delirium. Since then Drex has been up most nights coughing. Consequently, he has been out of school more than in and all of us are short on sleep, a condition that’s attended by its usual insidious erosive effects. Debbie is emotionally exhausted. ##### This condition of Debbie’s owes itself in part to her accompanying Austin to her appointment with another extremely kind doctor, Dr. Canas da Silva, a rheumatologist and Behçet’s specialist in Lisbon on Monday. After confirming for Austin that she would be a textbook Behçet’s case if there were a Behçet’s textbook, he asked, “Do you have siblings?” . . . “And he’s fine?” . . . “Does he ever have strong responses to things . . . like mosquito bites?” This was the first time Debbie had heard anyone mention mosquito bites in a Behçet’s discussion. She produced the photograph of Drex eating ice cream here in Portugal during the summer of 2000 that some of you received as a postcard, in which he looks as if he’s just finished five rounds with Mike Tyson, a condition produced by mosquito bites while he slept. Dr. Canas de Silva said we would do well to get Drex to his counterpart in Porto as soon as possible. ##### Why have all these things come together? Why has a little boy who until recently could pass for normal—providing one didn’t have access to his medical history—suddenly begun to look like a 1973 Ford Maverick? The Christian who takes seriously Ephesians 6:12 might ask whether it has anything to do with our recently intensified praying against the spirits of unbelief and idolatry that have such a powerful hold on Braga and northern Portugal. We cannot know for sure, but we are employing our weapons of spiritual warfare that are divinely powerful for the destruction of everything that sets itself up against God and His perfect will for our children’s lives and bodies (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We’re trying to fully engage these issues on both natural and supernatural ground. ##### In that struggle, an enormous challenge for Debbie and me is keeping in contact with one another, even as each of tries to do everything we can for our kids. The fact that we necessarily process things differently threatens to lead us in different directions. Our standing daily thirty minute appointment to relax, talk and pray, which so easily and so often gets preempted, takes on much greater significance. We must also pray against a spirit of sickness, if you will, that wants to invade the house. It wants to bring with it spirits of lethargy, despair, fear and unbelief, which in turn travel with their menagerie of fluffy little pets that eat volumes, grow bigger and bite: impatience, anger and bitterness. These are great threats. We must rebuke them in Jesus name and send them packing (2 Timothy 1:7, Luke 4:39). ##### Strategically, I’ll need to derive more intense pleasure from God’s simple blessings, like the bird’s singing, steam rising from my coffee, the aroma of blooming jasmine filling the kitchen and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in order to be sustained. I can vaguely imagine, though it’s a thousand miles away, a condition wherein I am so much in sympathy with God (1 Corinthians 2:16) that the bird’s singing outside in the garden and my son’s coughing upstairs in bed are to me as different notes played upon the same instrument. Of course, this condition comes dangerously close to insanity, or at least denial, and threatens to leave Debbie utterly abandoned. Please pray that we learn to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ,” (Galatians 6:2). ##### On the work front, yesterday was my first official day working part time with Vivarte while still working part time with Habitat. I spoke more Portuguese than I would in an ordinary month with Habitat. I expect my Portuguese will improve quickly, which will be fun. I see now that the word part time tricked me into imagining intervals of free time between and around work. Not likely. All the efficiencies of having one place to go and one set of relationships to attend are gone. But this is great for my cachet. I will almost always be late for something and I may begin to carry more than one cell phone! People who see me will have to conclude that I am busy because I am important. Combined with the medical vocabulary I’m acquiring in two languages, the effect will probably be that I’ll soon be choosing among talk-shows on which to appear in order to discuss post-war Iraq. Please ask God to give me a spirit of worship as I go about my work. ##### Thank you for your prayers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: debk
Date: Fri Apr 4 08:25:54 2003
A common question these days: How is Austin doing mentally, emotionally, spiritually? Recently we discussed using the Psalms, in all their angst and praise, to focus herself. Here is the result: March 25 = Psalm 88. March 27(slightly less grim) = Psalm 13. March 31 = Psalm 142. And for the past few days, praise be to God, more triumphantly: Psalm 124. ##### Please let me repeat how much we appreciate and are resting upon your prayers and support.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Tue Apr 15 13:52:57 2003
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 ##### Some time in the middle of last night, half-asleep, I realized the medicine I needed was to rejoice. Ever since I started working two part- time jobs April 1 I’ve been running around like an agitated atom about to lose an electron. I’ve been reasonably faithful in remembering to take an aspirin a day to thin my blood and keep the pulmonary emboli at bay, but I had forgotten to take my Philippians 4:4, which has led to all sorts of insanities and anxieties. I’ve been behaving as if the stability of post-war Iraq depends upon whether I manage to divide my time equitably between my employers. The sillinesses of which I am still capable are shocking, but right there in the middle of the night I rejoiced in the Lord and my symptoms immediately began to abate. I continued with rejoice therapy when I awoke and the world began to look completely different than it did yesterday. The tremendous burden of imagined responsibilities I had been bearing about vaporized. The sky opened and gave to me from its enormity. Trees and flowers and light that meant nothing yesterday spoke of God’s power and life and love. Rejoicing is a feast for the soul (Proverbs 15:15). Its power to emancipate comes from its independence from circumstances (Acts 16:25- 26). You can rejoice anywhere, anytime (Job 1:20). We rejoice based upon God’s resume, not ours, nor upon our present condition. When we do, we can fly ( Isaiah 40:31). ##### As they were last year at this time, my family is in Lisbon without me. Drex, Debbie and I went down Saturday to see the musical Austin and her friends from church have been working on, but I had to return Sunday for work while everyone else stayed on to play and keep a doctor’s appointment. The musical was adorable and Austin looked great. She even danced! Thank you for your prayers for her. She still has plenty to deal with, but she is pressing ahead admirably. She is rereading Gerry Sitiser’s A Grace Disguised with renewed interest. It may be from him she got the question, “Why not me?” in response to the question, “Why me?” “It’s not as if God’s been really mean to me up to now,” she said. ##### Drex is also doing better, thank you very much for praying. He’s sleeping much more than coughing now at night, so Debbie is sleeping, too. We had a disappointing appointment with a very nice rheumatologist here in Braga last week who dismissed our questions about Drex and Behçet’s saying it’s a disease people only get in their twenties. We know from what we’ve read that isn’t true. Maybe we’ll take Drex to the very nice rheumatologist Austin saw in Lisbon who was impressed with the photo of his mosquito bite injuries. “Complete remission,” by the way, is the key phrase in your prayers for our Bihçet’s sufferers. God’s done it for other people. ##### The rose explosion has begun in Braga. They’ve been waiting in the wings for the opening acts—the little dancing daffodils and tulips, the crashing percussive wisteria, the lilting fuscia—to set the stage, but now they’ll robe the city well into summer. A lilac—my personal favorite—plays a supporting role, sprawling fragrantly over an ancient stone wall across our steep narrow cobbled street. ##### I should have gone to bed, but I turned on the TV about midnight one night last week and God gave me one of the things I’ve been craving for about a year: a John Wayne movie. I arrived just as “The Searchers”—coincidently the movie upon which the Jessica Lynch rescue was based—began, as if I had walked into the theatre without a moment to spare. It was just the cultural injection I’d hoped. I could almost see the enormous cars, the drive in restaurants with root beer floats and the endless highways stretching off screen and away from Hollywood into the distant American cultural landscape. Small consolation for missing the entire NCAA Basketball Tournament with hardly a thought and the Annual Family Guys Spring Training Trip, but a blessing nevertheless. ##### No way to thank you enough for your prayers. The Lord bless you this week as you have been a blessing to us.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Apr 27 10:35:07 2003
It is an easily traceable line through archeological history: when a people group has established itself in a new location, when they have determined the best days for hunting and gathering, when to put out the trash and when to pay the water bill, invariably they turn their attention to croquet. And so it is that several weeks ago I tore up the undulating weed-invested excuse for a lawn in our back yard so that I could level the ground and install a fresh green suited to “the leisure sport.” Invented by the British during the late Jurassic as a parody of themselves, croquet survives because it is the perfect game for fair- weather gatherings. Very old ladies and children often excel, and it is almost impossible for it to be taken seriously. We’ve used it successfully before as an excuse for bringing people together, and I want to try it here. There’s no telling whether the neighbors will take to it, but I suspect that our next-door neighbor, Dona Rosa, who recently turned eighty and boasts of having no heat in her house and no teeth in her head, has a very competitive side. Please pray that God would use us to bring His light and love to this neighborhood. ##### Austin spent a few days here in Braga over Easter weekend. Man, that was nice! It was the first chance I’d had to spend a substantial amount of time with her since Christmas. She spent a lot of the time playing the indulgent big sister, curled up on the couch playing Game Boy with Drex, chattering away with him in Portuguese over strategy. They’ve exchanged several Game Boy related cell phone text messages since her return to Lisbon. Drex has to borrow a cell phone for these, being the one member of the family without at least one. How long we’ll be able to deny him one I don’t know. In the public housing neighborhood where I work with Vivarte, cell phones seem to be about as common among children as yo-yos were when I was a kid. We’ve organized several Vivarte activities in order to get acquainted with the kids and they’ve gone very well. Please pray, as our classes in painting, drawing, sculpture, theatre, dance, and music get under way in May, that God uses Vivarte as a means of reaching kids and their families with the message of His love. ##### Healthwise, Drex is sleeping fine and is just about over the cough that has nagged him for so long, but he seems like a different kid than the one we had just a few months ago. Though he has occasional bursts of energy they don’t last long and his overall energy level is pretty low. He’s still very cheerful, but rather than always wanting to spend our time together running around kicking, throwing or hitting balls, he generally wants to read. Maybe I’m just imagining this or maybe it’s because he’s really loving the Redwall series of Brian Jacques. Either way, please pray that he and Austin would both be completely well, full of the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38). ##### Debbie says her job search is “stalled and uninspired.” Please pray that God would lead her into the good works that He has prepared for her (Ephesians 2:10). ##### If you’ve been keeping up with these updates, you may remember me asking you to pray for our Habitat volunteer coordinator, Sandra Costa. She’s has suffered from insomnia and poor health. Well, God has worked an amazing miracle in Sandra’s life. She and one of last summer’s volunteers have fallen in love and are planning to marry in July. Her fiancé, Stan, is from Los Angeles, loves the Lord, and speaks some Portuguese because of mission work he’s done in Brazil. The newlyweds will live in Braga, because Sandra cannot get permission from her former husband to take their six-year-old daughter, Beatriz, to America. Please pray that God blesses them in every way. ##### Thank you for your championship praying. You are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). May the Lord bless you richly this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: debk
Date: Mon Apr 28 09:04:38 2003
As some of you know, Behçet’s is the leading cause of adult blindness in Japan and the Japanese have responded by founding a couple of medical facilities devoted to Behçet’s research. Accordingly, the world’s best medical care and information regarding Behçet’s comes from Japan. Unfortunately, my Japanese is even worse than my Portuguese. Fortunately, Susan Ward decided to start praying and searching for a Japanese-speaking person who would be willing to peruse the Japanese Behçet’s websites for information about dietary recommendations, promising treatments, etc. She has been, as those of you who know her would guess, very diligent in this activity and even located some (very busy) people--scattered throughout the USA--who offered to do what they could, when they could. But more important than all her calling and emailing, she committed to praying for a resource. ##### Today I returned to my Portuguese grammar class at the local University after almost two months absence. Surprise, surprise: who is the latest addition to our class of seven students? A Japanese nurse. 7000 miles from home, living in this remote Portuguese town of 150,000 people. During the break, she approached me and said, "I hear your daughter has Behçet’s. I am familiar with this disease. Can I help you in some way? Will you be in class this week? I would be happy to do some internet research for you . . . " Hmmm. Jordan asked if I peered behind her to see if she had wings. Nice of God to send the resource right to me here in Braga, huh? This will make things much easier. ##### "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun May 4 10:13:46 2003
I have said that Vivarte will use theatre, dance, music, painting, drawing, sculpture and photography the way Habitat for Humanity uses home-building, as a means of building up people and communicating to them the love of God. There’s truth in that, and while it’s true that both deal with basic elements from the periodic table of personhood—service in the case of Habitat for Humanity and the image of God, or creativity in the case of Vivarte—it is also interesting to consider the differences. We're having to think hard about the differences because we need to draft some defining principles for Vivarte that will help us convey to our instructors what we expect from them. Habitat is nice because when people show up we tell ‘em what we want ‘em to do and they do it. The dirtier and sweatier it is the more they like it, generally. From time to time we point out to them the miracle that’s taking place through them and in them as a result of their generosity and before you know it we’ve stumbled upon the Gospel. Love, or giving ourselves to others, is the idea. But art is different. It’s all about you. What is going on inside of you? How can we help you to express that drama? If it’s happening inside of you, at any level, it’s valid. It’s fair game for being expressed in art. This, I expect, will be what our instructors are thinking. But a lot of what is going on inside of you, especially on particular levels, is garbage, and, in my opinion, should not be expressed in a civilized society. That is not modern, artistic thinking. What are we to do? Well, obviously, we need to pray. Pray that God would give us wisdom as try to create an atmosphere where creativity can flourish and lead to a deeper understanding of the Creator. ##### I ought to give you an update on the Habitat financial situation, since the last thing some of you may have heard was that we had enough money to keep the doors open through March or April. Well, Habitat for Humanity International came up with another 30,000€ to pay salaries a while longer. That frees up other money to complete the house we’re working on now, which will take us through the summer. So if you were thinking about coming but were unsure there’d be money to buy materials for you to build with, come ahead. As for the future, we’ve submitted a plan that calls for reorganizing ourselves around the Global Village volunteer teams that are our most reliable source of income. Under this plan, we would entertain as many GV teams as possible, perhaps 12-15 per year, and only build when they’re in town. They pay for themselves and all the materials they use, so it’s a self-sustaining model. The initial response to the plan was disappointment because we’ll build fewer houses than we had hoped, at least in the short run. But all the pieces are in place to make it work. Lots of volunteers want to come to Portugal. That’s good news. Please pray that God would continue the work of Habitat here. ##### Today is Mother’s Day in Portugal, so pray for your mom. We thank God for our moms. To help Debbie celebrate her day, we drove thru at McDonald’s, which appeals both to her maternal instinct—it makes her son immensely happy—and to her introvert’s instinct—giving her just the right amount of interaction with strangers. ##### If you prayed for Drex’s energy level this week, thank you. He’s had a bunch of it, and that has been a joy to see. Austin, too, is feeling much, much better. Thank you for your ongoing prayers for her. ##### Blessed week to you. May the Lord of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun May 11 12:30:08 2003
What a week! Last Saturday God gave me two potentially life-changing ideas and, subsequently, the power to follow through with them. The first came from an article by Dee Duke, a pastor from Salem, Oregon. The idea is to pray especially for people each month on the day of the month on which they were born. I have long been distressed by the fact that nieces and nephews of mine would find it nearly impossible to pick me out of a police line-up and almost as difficult to think of a reason why they should. I’ve been very weak at praying regularly for people, too. After just a week of this I feel right in the thick of spiritual things with a bunch of important people: on the 5th I was thanking God that my niece was able to do away with her training wheels; on the 8th I prayed for my nephew’s two front teeth and his cross-over dribble; on the 9th it was my God-son’s preschool classmates Corissa, Jack, Zachy and Jacob, and their teacher, Mrs. McAllister. Lord willing, I’ll be right back praying especially for them on those same days next month. They still may not be able to recognize me, but I’ll be content to be known as “that crazy guy who was always praying for me.” About Wednesday Drex, whose birthday is on the 30th, asked the critical question: “What about February? What happens to me in February?” I got out of that one by explaining that I pray for him every day, so February isn’t a problem. Of course, it’s the people with birthdays on the 31st who really take it in the shorts. But just as God provided enough manna for the Israelites on Friday to last through the Sabbath (Exodus 16:5), I figure He can load people up with blessings one month so they won’t be short the next. Please pray that I keep it up. ##### The second big idea, after two+ years of not being able to find time to study Portuguese, was lunchtime. Everyone else in Portugal takes at least an hour for lunch. I almost never do. Often, I scoff my peanut-butter and honey sandwiches while I work so that I can get my work done and go home to my family sooner. No more. For nine consecutive days I’ve studied for an hour right in the middle of the day, which means I’ve studied more this week than in the previous six months. Just a little progress each day is tremendously encouraging for me and really helps tune my head and ears into Portuguese. It’s been wonderful. Please pray that I stick with this, too. ##### Best of all though, this week, God has given me a terrific sense that prayer IS our work, that the things we do in addition to prayer are merely the clothes our prayers wear. They’re incidental. God is the mover. You and I can decide to be part of what He’s doing or not, but it’s His work, and the way we can advance His work is through prayer (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Prayer is to faith what respiration is to the physical body. If you want to know whether a person is alive, hold a mirror in front of their nose and mouth. If it fogs up, they’re breathing, they’re alive. In the same way, if you want to know whether you’re walking in faith, ask yourself whether you’re praying. Obviously I’m not talking about praying that occupies all our attention all the time. I’m talking about a spirit of prayer and worship that contextualizes and defines all we think and do a little bit like our need for oxygen defines the activities of our bodies. This week I came as close as I’ve ever come. I want more. ##### As if all that weren’t enough, high-speed internet access came to our neighborhood this week. So, for a monthly fee which is a fraction of what we were paying we get continual access. I listened to the News from Lake Wobegon for the first time in a year. ##### Please pray for the Global Village team of volunteers that is planning to come build with Habitat, June 14-28, that they are able to fill the six remaining spots on their team. It’s an open team, led by a guy named Steve from Oregon, so wherever you are, if you’d like to come, let me know and I’ll give you Steve’s contact information. Also, please pray for our Local Volunteer Day next Saturday, May 17, that we would have at least six volunteers and that our time working together would be blessing. ##### Please continue to pray that Austin would be encouraged and that this, the last week of her semester, would be fruitful. She’s planning on attending and working at a Christian camp in August with some of her friends from church. She’s tried to convince Drex to attend camp the week they’ll host kids his age. He has manifested as much interest in going away to camp for ten days as his mother did a generation ago, a level of interest immeasurably low. On the other hand, he got a very complimentary, very encouraging report card this week. Thank you for your prayers for him. ##### Thank you for all your prayers for all of us. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun May 18 22:47:55 2003
At Habitat, we began building the walls of the Francisco Veloso home this week, with the typical Portuguese wall-building materials: hollow clay blocks and mortar. We worked alongside José Ribeiro, the wiry, sanguine, supercharged sixty-two year old father and partner of local builder Luis Ribeiro. We hope both of them will have a growing part in our work. About the only thing that will get Senhor Ribeiro Senior to stop moving is an opportunity to preach the Gospel. He was wonderful with our volunteers, patient and encouraging, despite the fact that with half of them the language barrier was absolute. There is a wonderful spirit of play about building, especially in these early phases, when a days work tends to be relatively dramatic. The climbing and struggling often remind me of the elementary school playground where we used to swing around wielding powerful imaginary cutting devices. Now the cutting devices are real. The Christian life ought to include a spirit of play. God is often playful: making things just for fun or because they’re pretty, trying new things to see what will happen or how certain colors look together, teasing us, being ironic. His spirit of play comes through in places like Proverbs 8:22-31, which I like to think of as God the Son’s reminiscences about His early collaborations with God the Father: “Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His delight; Rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of men,” (v.30-31). Knowing what will happen ahead of time with His little experiments may take away a bit from some of His fun, though. Maybe that’s one reason why He likes to keep us around—our capacity to be surprised and delighted, our capacity for wonder. ##### At Vivarte, we’re dividing our time between building relationships with kids and rebuilding our little storefront space to better accommodate our activities. We’re preparing for an open house on June 1, the International Day of Children. Please pray that we are just as prepared as the Lord would like us to be. ##### Debbie trained to Lisbon yesterday to meet with a tax attorney and to spend a little time with Austin. The big question for us continues to be how Debbie will spend her time. We’re thankful she has the liberty right now to make trips like this one, that she’s available to be a support to Austin, and to Drex. Some of the scenarios we’re considering would eliminate that sort of flexibility. Please continue to ask God to direct us. ##### Austin finished classes this week and now has a couple of exams to look forward to. Please pray for her preparations for those and that she would be encouraged and completely well. ##### With the gals in Lisbon, Drex and I will be at home, playing soccer, eating pizza and reading Brian Jacques’ Redwall books. (Austin read most of the Redwall books to herself, so I didn’t know until now how violent they are. They’re full of mayhem and slaughter--punctuated by feasting--even if it is only between woodland animals). ##### Thank you, thank you for praying for us. May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you (Numbers 6:24-26) this week
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon May 26 23:52:51 2003
Sunday: Our new custom of praying especially for people on the day of the month on which they were born makes every day a prayer party. It reminds me of a ticker-tape parade for the Yankees in New York after they’ve won a World Series, with God opening up the windows of heaven and pouring out blessings upon people like confetti (Malachi 3:10). ##### I used to think of the NASA space program as an expensive toy. Now I have much more respect for people’s impulse to explore. I wonder whether it is a necessary activity for a healthy society. These days when I read our Seattle church’s newsletter, the Bethany Briefs, or thumb through the church’s picture directory that arrived last week, aside from wondering at the identity of the unfamiliar young man in the Purdy family photograph, my prevailing sense is of a thriving spiritual community made up of people I love, from whom we have necessarily gone out. I have no sense that we should be among them now. I have a strong sense that our service to that community right now is of an exploratory nature. What is God doing out there? Out here? Beyond the limits of our community in Seattle. Do the things we believe there apply out here? Gravity? Check. Sunrise-sunset? Check. Death and resurrection with Christ and the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit? Check, certainly, blessedly, but of course, we get at truth with different words here, different metaphors, so some things are clearer even as other things are more obscured. What is clearer? What can we learn? ##### Part of what I’m learning, as I’ve said here before, is the value of friendship. I just got off the phone with Kurt Dale, who lives across the street from where we lived in Seattle. Hanging up the phone I felt a searing pain which, while clearly of a lesser magnitude than that felt by Jesus at the tomb of His friend (John 11:33-36), was nevertheless not entirely unlike it. It is a pain I think I need to know better if I am going to be of much real use. The occasion for the phone call was a school project of Kurt’s son Jordan, wherein he needed to interview someone from another country. He chose Drex. Drex’s answers to the interview questions were a testimony to answered prayer: Q: What do you like about Portugal? A: My friends, my school, my house and its garden. Q: What do you not like about Portugal? A: I like everything about Portugal. Praise be to God for His tender care and ministry to Drex! ##### Speaking of friendship, Debbie celebrated her 42nd birthday yesterday desperately wishing she was in Denver at the wedding of her dear friend Julie. Please pray for Julie and her new husband, Pat, that God would bless them in every way and draw them to Himself (Psalm 43:3-4). ##### I became part of the board of directors of Associação Humanitária Habitat, the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, yesterday at the meeting of the general assembly. It was also discussed at the meeting that there exist thirty million homes for ten million Portuguese. What is a group of energetic, capable people doing talking about building more houses in a situation like that!? Part of the answer is that the families we serve cannot afford the houses that are for sale or rent. I don’t know yet whether there’s more to the answer or not. Please pray that God would give us wisdom in discerning His will (James 1:5). ##### There are lots of troubled kids in the neighborhood where Vivarte is operating. Two of the most troubled are Lucia and Catarina. Lucia, who is eight, giggles and laughs and climbs all over any adult who’ll pay attention to her, but she speaks very little and has little self-control. At thirteen Catarina is going through a phase not unlike what we call “the terrible twos,” only with all the physical capabilities of a young adult. She got a hold of an exacto knife and attacked a seven-year-old, thankfully with little result. Most of her mayhem is perpetrated with a mischievous rather than malevolent spirit. Would you please pray for Lucia and Catarina, that God would give them ears to hear the message of His great love for them and that He would give us words and wisdom to convey it to them. Oh, and pray too, please, for Cátia. She’s twelve, with tremendous spirit, but only a very narrow capacity to express it on the emotive range. Virtually all of her expression is some variant of anger. Even when she’s happy, she expresses it by slapping little kids with a smile. ##### Austin and Drex are well. We’re looking forward to seeing Austin for a few hours Saturday. We hope to meet up in Coimbra, in the center of Portugal, at a “March for Jesus.” While part of me thinks that celebrating and singing and praising the Lord in the street with a few hundred other believers will be great fun, part of me worries that it will contribute to the adversarial spirit so prevalent here between Protestants and Catholics. Please pray that God is glorified and lifted up during this afternoon of praise. “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life,” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). ##### Thank you for loving us and for praying for us. May the Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jun 1 12:19:27 2003
It is often difficult to live in a place where one is illiterate and assumed stupid by people of all ages, but by far the most painful aspect of life in Portugal is the ubiquitous bad American music. It is as if Portugal provides a tertiary or even quartiary market for old 8-track tapes. After people tire of them in Uzbekistan they send them to Braga. At first this brought an element of comfort: during one of my first bewildering visits to a tiny grocery in a remote sun-baked hamlet in central Portugal in the summer of 2000, the Beach Boys wondered, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?” Maybe things are not going to be quite as bewildering as they seem, I thought. Before long, the comfort faded. The situation came to a head for me this week. As I browsed the aisles of the hardware store, a still too-familiar voice whined, “Yesterday's a dream I face the morning crying on a breeze the pain is calling oh Mandy.” I fled, leaving my purchases scattered on the floor. ##### In his wonderful book, How to Really Love Your Kids, Ross Campbell describes some of the ways you can fill your child’s “emotional tank.” One of them is touch. I’m learning a lot from the Portuguese about touch. They touch more than we do. The most obvious example, of course, is the little kisses with which they begin and end every conversation. I often think they must pity us our cold, distant, nontouching culture. “Poor wretches,” I imagine them thinking when we shake hands, “they pay such a high price for being warlike.” I’m still very clumsy when it comes to discerning when to kiss women to whom I’m not related, but I’m employing some other touching techniques to good effect, especially at Vivarte. When I lay a reassuring hand on the shoulder of Caterina, who I asked you to pray for last week, I feel like I’m drawing out poison. Likewise many of the boys, who are often in attack mode, looking for something to dismember. Wrestling with them, imparting messages of strength and tenderness and self-control and affirmation, one senses a tiny change in their polarity, from being negatively towards being positively charged. Please pray that God uses Vivarte to impart His message of love and affirmation and new life in Jesus Christ. ##### Thanks for praying for our preparations at Vivarte for today’s “International Children’s Day.” I confess my lack of faith. When I asked you to pray that we would be “just as prepared as God wants us to be,” I was thinking, “It ain’t gonna be much.” It’s stunning. Thanks to Manuela Quintaneiro, the psychologist in charge of Vivarte, and two artists, a married couple named Francisco and Aida, who have been making art with the kids once a week for a month, our little storefront space looks elegant, with the children’s art displayed as if it were in a gallery in Lisbon. Thanks be to God. ##### As anticipated, we got to spend a little time with Austin yesterday and today, first at the “March for Jesus” in Coimbra, which was great fun, then back here in Braga. After a macroeconomics exam this week, for which I know she would appreciate your prayers, Austin will be back Thursday to stay with Drex while Debbie and I attend a three day Prayer Summit led by a pastor from Salem, Oregon, named Dee Duke. Please ask God to make a big impact upon us and upon northern Portugal through the prayer summit. ##### Great praying for the Habitat June Global Village team! Of the six empty spaces we were asking God to fill four are now occupied. Please don’t stop. ##### Thank you for your love and prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jun 15 14:48:21 2003
A fly and a moth, affixed and fossilized with hair spray, stand on the ceiling at an angle to one another suggestive of casual conversation. Title: “S’up?” “S’up?” is the first piece in a series of “Bug Art” I’m working on. The original now hangs at Vivarte, in Braga, Portagal. I hope to finish the next piece, “Waiting for the Interurban,” when the series is fully funded. Please pray that Vivarte is a place where creative things happen, most of all that God creates new hearts there and fills them with the joy of His salvation (Psalm 51:10, 12). ##### Thanks for praying for last weekend’s Prayer Summit. Debbie and I enjoyed it very much. (Just being away together for a couple of days in a lovely setting for a fraction of what it would ordinarily cost guaranteed that.) At Jefferson Baptist Church in Jefferson, Oregon, where Dee Duke, who led the summit, is senior pastor, people are praying on a Biblical scale (Luke 6:12, Acts 2:42) and lives are being transformed as a result. One of their mottos is “P.U.S.H.,” Pray Until Something Happens. Pastor Duke’s primary emphasis was upon volume of prayer, especially corporate prayer (Matthew 18:20). He said the goal of our corporate prayer is unity—praying with one mind and one heart (John 17:21, Phlippians 2:2). To that end, he offered some rules of etiquette for praying together, like “Pray short prayers,” “Pray loudly enough for everyone to hear,” “Don’t go to sleep,” “Work hard at agreeing,” and “Stay on one topic at a time.” He also shared his conviction that the most powerful force on earth is a husband and wife agreeing together in prayer (Matthew 18:19). And He is a huge advocate of “prayer walking.” Every three months members of Jefferson Baptist split up into teams of five with maps dividing the city into sectors that can be walked through in a morning and go around “praying for what they see.” Same rules of etiquette apply, with the addition of “Pray with your eyes open.” Pastor Duke says nothing arouses in people a passion to pray like prayer walking. Jefferson Baptist sends short term missionary teams all over the world to prayer walk. Please pray that the summit serves as a catalyst to more prayer in our home, our church and in northern Portugal. ##### Prayer, by which I mean fellowship with the Spirit of God, is like oxygen. Prayer is what brings life to our souls as oxygen brings life to our bodies. The soul that doesn’t pray is dead as is the body that doesn’t breath. We may mingle prayer with other elements of thought as our oxygen is mingled with other gasses, but those other elements, in any substantial amount, are toxic. As Miles Sanford discusses in his book, The Green Letters, we must stop thinking of prayer as something we take time out of our day to do. We must quit the idea of continually entering into and departing from the presence of God. The idea isn’t Biblical. “My child, you are always with Me, and everything I have is yours,” (Luke 15:31) is the Biblical reality. Life is a prayer walk. ##### We met a couple from Lisbon at the prayer summit named Armando and Elizabeth Azavedo. He is Portuguese. She is from Oregon. Each of them has a fifteen year old, an eleven year old, and a seven year old from a previous marriage. To make the wedding pictures really enchanting, each of those pairs includes a boy and a girl, one flaxen-haired, one olive- skinned. Armando and Elizabeth are starting a ministry, Na Crista da Onde (The Crest of the Wave Youth Association) in Lisbon, that is similar to Vivarte. Austin met with Elizabeth this week in Lisbon and was recruited to help. Please pray that God would bless their ministry and Austin’s work with them. ##### Please pray for Luciano, a wonderful young Romanian man who has been part of our church for a year and a half and who is trying to arrange for his wife and two young children to join him here. Both financial and bureaucratic obstacles stand in the way. ##### It now seems clear, based on the results of the croquet lawn out back, that God is not calling me to a ministry of golf-course maintenance, much as I might have enjoyed the big riding lawnmower if He were. There are as many weeds as there is grass and the ground has settled unevenly, like a giant potato chip. I should have some natural acumen for this sort of thing. My brother, Drexel, who reigns over a small nation in the southwestern United States, built his empire upon lawn maintenance during the late 70’s and early 80’s. How could he have gotten all the lawn- genes? As his namesake our son is fond of saying, “Life isn’t fair.” ##### I’m off shortly to meet the team of Habitat volunteers from the United States that will be here building for the next two weeks. Please ask God to bless their time and work here and ask Him to give us words to “fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” ##### We are very happy to be partnering with you in prayer. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jun 29 11:22:56 2003
Last Wednesday the 18th was a long hard hot day at the Habitat jobsite. The temperature reached 40º C (well over 100º F) and the day concluded with one of our Habitat volunteers, Savannah special-ed teacher Kathrine, falling and sustaining a cut in the back of her head that required a trip to the emergency room and five stitches. By the time I arrived home, covered from head to toe with layers of dirt, perspiration and concrete, I felt like I had been through the food processor and baked. I barely dragged myself through dinner and a bedtime story with Drex before collapsing into bed myself. After eight luxurious hours of sleep I rose early Thursday morning and sat in the garden with a cup of coffee to pray. A fresh gentle breeze animated the flowers. The sun’s early rays slanted through the trees. The Spirit of God moved across the surface of the grass (Genesis 1:2). The Lord proved again that “His lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, His compassions never fail. They are new every morning,” (Lamentations 3:22-23). I sat and treasured all these things in my heart (Luke 2:51), thinking they might come in handy another day (Psalm 42:4). ##### The evening of Monday the 24th was the climax of the festival of St. John the Baptist in Braga. You may remember reading about it here before. This is the festival during which people bop one another on the head with plastic squeaky hammers. Normal boundaries of personal space are also violated by dangling garlic or other pungent herbs before people’s noses. With remarkably little alcohol the usually guarded Portuguese become like laughing bouncing school children. Looking down the long Avenida da Liberdade at midnight beneath the glare of dazzling street decorations the mass of people looked like a single undulating organism with thousands upon thousands of tiny hammer arms working up and down. The Habitat Global Village volunteers loved it. University of Puget Sound freshman Rose and Alburquerque Outdoor Leader Blaze fought bopping battles with Drex until he was bathed with perspiration. Chicago nurse Ilene and Zurich marathoner Lisa, dressed in matching black tank tops, looked like two circus ponies, one with blond mane and tail, the other brunette, skipping and prancing and taking on gangs of hammer-wielding Portuguese youths together. ##### But the volunteers are gone now. Friday was their last day on the job and my last day as construction supervisor at Associação Humanitária Habitat. On Sunday, June 24, 2001, I wrote here, “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 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.” Well, we did move after twelve months, across town to the house in which we now live. And my contract with Habitat was renewed after the first year. But now God has faithfully raised up a Portuguese construction supervisor—actually two, Luis Ribeiro and his dad, José, who did very well with our volunteers these last two weeks—and He has graciously opened the door at Vivarte, that I may continue to serve here. I also plan to begin intensive Portuguese study this week, which I am very excited about, at the University of Minho just down the hill. Please ask God to bless these new arrangements and to clarify how Debbie and I should apportion the rest of our time in the months to come. ##### Please pray for Austin’s negotiations with the American healthcare providers from whom she received care during her trip this spring. Pray that they agree to accept much less money than they have billed. ##### Mike, Julie and Zachary Christensen, friends from our church in Seattle, are in Braga this weekend. What a blessing to be with them, worship with them, pray with them and trade stories about what God is doing on different sides of the world. ##### “Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will walk and not be weary, they will run and not faint,” (Isaiah 40:31). Most eagles, if you ask them, will tell you that they prefer to stay in their nests. Some of these eagle’s nests are nearly eight feet across—larger than a California king-sized bed—and are made of sticks that tickle a bird’s feathers in a very agreeable way. Flying is dangerous. It forces one to trust in things one cannot see and exposes one to variations one cannot predict. But to fulfill the purpose for which God made him an eagle must mount up upon his wings. He must soar. It is the same with us. God does not intend for His kids to sit comfortably by. He intends for them to step out in faith and allow Him to bear them up. He expects them to risk everything upon Him, to attempt things that are only possible because of His power. Comfort is the enemy of the spiritual life. ##### Thank you very much for your love and prayers. God bless you for praying
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jul 6 06:15:35 2003
“Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God,” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). So, along with being a lame metaphor, the assertion that “Comfort is the enemy of the spiritual life,” which you may have read here last week, is also obviously false. One suspects the author was enamored of the paragraph’s resounding close and his editor was in Lisbon. In any event, regarding eagles and comfort and the spiritual life, it might be more appropriate to note that most eagles spend a portion of each day riding thermals and a portion of each day resting comfortably at home. Christians might do well to do likewise. ##### In the mornings now and for the rest of July I’ll amble down our sun swept hill to the University of Minho for intensive Portuguese. It’s great. School is such fun stripped of all the foolishness with which it is attended when one is young. Most of the other students are young—poor things—and are still wondering who they are and what they’ll do and whether they’ll succeed, little knowing that the only lasting assurances they’re ever going to get regarding such things, if they get them at all, will come from the Bible: in Christ they can be “holy and dearly loved,” (Colossians 3:12), “Like trees planted by streams of water, yielding their fruit in season,” (Psalm 1:3). I’m only there to learn Portuguese and the professors are there to help—a great and promising combination! I was also happy to discover that the University has drinking fountains. Elsewhere in Portugal there are no drinking fountains, a situation that has always perplexed me. There aren’t even drinking fountains in the Lisbon airport. Other European airports have drinking fountains. Why all of Portugal’s drinking fountains have congregated at the University of Minho remains a mystery. Perhaps one of our intensive Portuguese professors will explain. ##### I began drawing the kids at Vivarte this week. I have always loved portraiture and caricature because of their capacity to reveal something of the spirit of their subject. I was reluctant to begin because it has been years since I’ve practiced, but I thought I needed to set a good example for the kids, fearlessly pushing the limits of my creative ability. As I drew I prayed that God would enable me to see the children as He sees them: radiant and beautiful and full of power and promise and hope. They waited in line to be drawn and sat and looked at me and smiled gorgeous heart wrenching smiles as I drew. Often I have cast about making lines on the page for hours before the essence of a subject suddenly emerges, before I can finally say, “There she is!”, and I’ve never drawn live models before (No, Bob, I mean I’ve drawn from photographs). But God was extremely gracious and allowed me to convey some of what I was hoping for. The kids seemed pleased. We agreed to try some more this week. Also, thanks be to God, by establishing and enforcing, upon pain of ejection, some simple rules of comportment, we were able to establish a reasonably safe environment this week, where people could work without fear of assault. Given a little latitude, these kids can behave as poorly as any I’ve ever known. Please pray that Vivarte continues to be a safe place. ##### Debbie and I both feel a sense of peace regarding our present situation, even though it is full of uncertainty. My Portuguese classes, in combination with my halftime work at Vivarte, will fill up my July, but thereafter we have only the one halftime job between us. Because of our concerns about our children’s health, we would like for Debbie to keep a flexible schedule so that she can be available to them. We know God will show us what He’d like me to do in order to make ends meet. Praise Him. ##### Pastor Dee Duke, from Oregon, who led the prayer summit Debbie and I attended in June, paid his kids 25 cents for every Bible verse they memorized while they were growing up. One daughter memorized the book of Psalms—costing Pastor Duke over $1200—and the Book of John, among others. Now the same offer is open to Drex (and Austin, for that matter) with the added feature that one may earn an additional 25 cents for each additional language. Considerable energy was given this week to memorizing the 1st Psalm. Please pray the word of God takes root in our children’s hearts. ##### Please pray for the leadership of the Habitat for Humanity affiliate here. We need Godly people in leadership and God’s vision for our work. ##### Oh, do we ever appreciate your prayers! May the Lord bless you this week even as you have been such a blessing to us.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jul 13 15:45:02 2003
Drex finally enjoyed a meal of trout taken from the nearby Cávado River this week, but only because a friendly Portuguese fisherman insisted we take one of his. “Leva, leva!” “Take it! Take it!” he said with the most cheerful of smiles. “I don’t even like ‘em. I just do this to pass the time.” When Debbie’s dad saw the Cávado the day after he arrived this week he said if he had known we had a river like that he’d have brought his flyrod. He did the next best thing, he bought one, which he plans to leave here, “For Drex to grow into.” We fished three times this week with Dad, who catches lots of big fish in Washington and Montana. We saw a lot of fish, but the only one that came home with us was that gift trout. As always, however, fishing is a great way for fellas to enjoy God’s creation and be together, and it gives us something to talk about. ##### Whereas Debbie’s dad fills Drex’s emotional tank by taking him fishing, Debbie’s mom gives him vast quantities of undivided attention, playing checkers, reading or blowing bubbles for him to shoot down with his squirt gun. It’s great to have them here. Please pray they feel loved and blessed by their time with us. ##### I’ve made as much progress with my Portuguese in the past two weeks of intensive language classes as I had in the previous year. Every day incrementally relieves the agony of being unable to communicate. It is an interesting function of the human makeup that the cessation of great suffering sometimes constitutes almost ecstatic pleasure. We’re praying about whether I ought to continue language classes after this intensive July course ends. ##### I spend my afternoons at Vivarte where I’m greeted each day by a pack of kids of various ages asking, “What are we going to do today?” Please pray that we make the most of our opportunities with them (Colossians 4:3-6) and that we are creative in planning activities. ##### Your prayers and your love are very precious to us. Thank you. May the Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jul 20 16:57:39 2003
Juanita Mae is 92 years old and has been a friend of Debbie’s parents for the last 30 years. She cannot read these Prayer and Praise updates; the font is too small. So each week Debbie’s mom, Doris, prints the update in a larger font and takes it to Juanita at her retirement home near Seattle. Juanita is what we call a Prayer Warrior (Ephesians 6:12-18). What does it mean to a Christian to be prayed for? It means life unfolds differently than it would otherwise. It means a host of problems we might have faced never appear. It means we have spiritual power to confront things that do arise. It means our homes are filled with “rare and beautiful treasures,” like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and humility (Proverbs 24:3, Galatians 5:22). The apostle Paul was always asking people to pray for him. He expected other people’s prayers to put words in his mouth (Ephesians 6:19), bring deliverance from difficulty (Philippians 1:19) and open doors (Colossians 4:3). It was obvious people were praying for us this week. At Vivarte, the days were busy and messy and full of opportunities to care for and encourage kids. A number of logistical and behavioral issues were dealt with effectively. Our time with Debbie’s parents has been rich. Thank you for praying. ##### I spend a lot of time at Vivarte picking up trash. I consider it a sacrament. But the kids need to stop littering, even though it’s ingrained in their culture. The lawn care man told us the neighbors have been complaining about our mess and that we might not be permitted to use our green space unless we shape up. Please pray we are able to convey this message to the kids and that they take responsibility for their garbage. ##### Debbie, Austin, Drex and Debbie’s parents plan to leave in the morning for Lisbon, in order to enjoy several days there. I’m staying here to work and attend Portuguese classes. The six-member Leaf family that lived here before we moved in a year ago is in town for a wedding and will be staying here, too. Please pray that all these mixed-up arrangements are a blessing to everyone involved. ##### We pray that the Lord blesses you this week and shines His face upon you. Thank you for your love.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jul 27 15:23:04 2003
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how much I’ve been enjoying being an adult consumer of education. One reason is that I am not defenseless, as one generally is when one is young, against the abuses and humiliations endemic to the educational system. For example, one of the five professors teaching in the Portuguese program at the University of Minho is incompetent. One way he tries to hide his weakness is by belittling his students and lording over them his superior knowledge. As an adult, one can recognize and respond to such ridiculousness without being victimized as a young person might be. Another of the professors is a cheerful little woman, delightful in every way, with a maternal desire for her students to thrive. But she has one defect: she has testing on the brain. She operates within a system that insists she evaluate her students and express that evaluation in some distinct fashion, like a grade. This creates a situation analogous to trying to waltz while completing an income tax return, with the difference that income tax returns mean something. Again, as an adult, one can distinguish between learning—a beautiful, graceful process—and testing, and see that the two may have little or nothing to do with one another. How many of our kids are terrorized by their inability to make that distinction? ##### I don’t mean to be overly critical of the educational system. The difficulty of its task would be impossible to overstate. It serves an important function and is packed with dedicated, gifted people. But its function is limited. There is a limit to what can be accomplished with millions of young people divided into groups of thirty for 50 minutes at a time. Only of very narrow band of intelligence and giftedness can be cultivated in such settings. Many of our children’s gifts lie outside that narrow range. I expect that nearly all of us have had the experience of feeling as if at least some of our interests and gifts were not being addressed in school. Part of what I pray for Vivarte is that it might be a place where some of those gifts that lay outside of academia are encouraged. Many of the children we work with get a lot of negative messages at school. Part of the reason is that their gifts are not academic. That does not make them any less gifted and it certainly doesn’t make them any less precious to God. ##### It was a great week at Vivarte. Thank you for praying. The place was overflowing with young people, from 3 to 23. We experimented for the first time with classes of limited enrollment. Several afternoons this week, a young German Christian volunteer named Elvina held dance classes with the girls. Perhaps twenty girls of various ages participated, while we tried to engage the boys in various activities outside that would keep them from breaking down the door to watch. (While the interest generated by the dancing was exciting, it did raise in my mind, if perhaps in no one else’s, the question of when the girl’s dancing might be inappropriately provocative. Please pray for wisdom on that delicate cultural point). There was also extraordinary interest in drawing this week. I’ve printed a lot of images from the internet—from hippopotamuses to Hulk—and then helped kids draw them using Mona Brooke’s method of dividing images up into little, easily duplicated parts (See her excellent book, Drawing with Children). Several of the kids have shown great aptitude and energy for drawing, including one little 5 year old named Carlos, who is about as aggressive and violent as he could be, except when he’s concentrating on creating gorgeous colorful landscapes, which he can do for hours. I hope to start at least some of these kids this week in a small private class with Senhor Francisco, one of our artists. Please pray that everyone involved is blessed. ##### The possibility arose this week of taking twenty of the Vivarte neighborhood kids, ages 7-14, to the Word of Life Camp in Lisbon from the 4th to the 9th of August. In the summer of 1987 I took 12 young men from downtown Chicago to the original Word of Life Camp in Skroon Lake, New York, to compete in the Word of Life National Basketball Championship, which that group of young men won, though not without a certain amount of cultural conflict between their own black urban style of camping and playing and the more anglo- evangelical Word of Life approach. If I can negotiate extra time off after my return from 144 consecutive hours of work I have it in mind to create a little team of 15 and 16 year olds from the neighborhood to help me supervise the young ones. Please ask God to tell me whether this thinking constitutes complete insanity. ##### Two of my classmates from my Potuguese course, Englishmen Ben and Alex, helped out at Vivarte this week in order to supplement their classroom learning with genuine, often profane, conversation. Ben enjoyed himself, Alex loved it and was much loved, to the point where young girls were making passes at him and he is considering returning for 6 months—though I am confident not for the young girls—when his Oxford University program requires that period of volunteerism. I had serious spiritual conversations with both Alex and Ben, and I think Alex may not be far from the Kingdom of God (Mark 12:34). I intend to challenge him this week to read the Gospel of John. Please pray that he does and that he is born again (John 3:3). ##### During the last couple of weeks we’ve been trading flu symptoms around a bit. Debbie spent the day in bed Friday with hers after taking her parents to the airport in Lisbon. She ate nothing all day. A little after midnight Saturday morning she awoke and went to the bathroom where she promptly fainted and crashed to the floor, openly a small cut above her left eye. Thankfully, her sense of humor remained intact, which was an comfort to Austin, who nursed her through the night and then drove her and Drex back here to Braga, where she is now resting on the couch. Please pray that she recovers quickly. ##### Thank you very much for your love and prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Aug 4 00:11:10 2003
I leave this morning with a busload of kids, ages 7-13, from the neighborhood where Vivarte operates, for a week at the Word of Life camp near Lisbon. The temperature in Lisbon last week reached 107º. It probably will not be quite so hot this week. I have spoken very little about God with these kids. I am very excited to see what He may do in their hearts this week. Please pray that the seeds that are planted there take root and bear fruit. Please pray especially for a young guy named Sergio, who is 14, but is going along to help with the younger kids, and who has a wonderful, gentle spirit. Pray that he is open to the things of God. Speaking of openness, I did not have the hoped for conversation about the Gospel of John with Alex, the Vivarte volunteer from Oxford, and he is gone now, but I hope to continue discussions with him via email. ##### Austin, too, will spend most of her week working with young children at a Christian camp, this one in the Alentejo region of central Portugal, where the temperature reached 117º last week. Please pray Psalm 121:5, “the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night,” for her and the rest of the staff, and pray that the children are touched not only by the sun, but by the Light of God’s love (John 8:12). ##### That leaves Debbie and Drex here together at home. Both Austin and I tried to talk Drex into joining us at our respective camps, but he is introverted enough, like his mom, so that camp with a lot of folks he does not know holds very little appeal. He and I have punctuated these warm days with super-soaker water fights, which I would enjoy more if they did not so much put me in mind of the scenes from Liberia. Pray for peace and a breaking of Satan’s hold on that country and that continent. Pray for Debbie and Drex this week, that they would have grace and good cheer towards one another. Drex got a retainer this week to straighten his teeth. Of course it is uncomfortable, but he was initially enthusiastic about it because one of his good friends has one. Like the breaking of a parent’s heart the first time their little child awakes with bad breath, the retainer now smells bad and the initial, natural enthusiasm is gone. Now we must have grace. Can we pray about things as small as the longsuffering of little boys? ##### Debbie recovered very slowly this week from her crash in the bathroom last weekend. Austin waited on her all week so that she was able to rest. Please continue to pray for her complete recovery. ##### “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him,” (2 Corinthians 2:14). And thank you for your prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Aug 11 16:58:10 2003
A week at Word of Life camp with a little more than a hundred children, a little fewer than a hundred degrees, very little sleep, and a million mosquitoes (which really is not many for summer camp). I’m delighted I went, delighted I’m home and hopeful that I won’t have to do it again. Really, they didn’t need me. They had a brilliant staff that included some of the most charming, gifted young people you’d every want to meet. They were extremely well organized and equipped. Essentially, I served as pool toy and climbing tree. I practiced translating for a couple of Americans that are working there this summer. The purpose of my staying was to build trust with the kids from the Vivarte neighborhood and their parents. To look after them a bit. Three of those kids, Filipa (12), Marlene (13), and Patricia (15), received Jesus (John 1:12-13). Please pray for them, that their faith takes root and grows. Pray also for us as we try to be faithful spiritual parents. We have a responsibility for their spiritual welfare and we are planning now how we might attend to it. There are fifteen older kids, ages 15-17, from the Vivarte neighborhood at camp now. Pray that they too will return babes in Christ. ##### Please continue to pray for Austin as she serves at a Christian camp for kids in the Alentejo region of central Portugal, where it’s warm enough that she probably feels as if she’s on fire, though she’s probably safe from the actual fires that are burning throughout the country. ##### Here at Camp D, the summer camp for introverts, Drex and Debbie honed their Yahtzee and Gameboy skills and sat in darkened rooms eating frozen dinners in front of fans. They had a blast. ##### Now I’m on holiday, at least part of which I hope to spend improving my Portuguese verb conjugations, though the better part of it will go to water fights and futebol (soccer) with Drex
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Aug 18 00:24:50 2003
Ebenezer Scrooge and I have a lot in common. For each of us our relationship with our father was the single most formative factor of our youth, he suffering the enmity of his, me enjoying the amity of mine. Each of us had a transformational encounter with the Divine, he in his bedchamber at sixty, me on the Evergreen Point floating bridge at nineteen. He passed his youth in the company of Robinson Crusoe, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. I passed mine in the company of Gilligan, Lucille Ball and McHale’s Navy. Consequently, both of us find ourselves in adulthood making up for lost time, he philanthropically, me philologically. So it is with a wonderful sense of redeeming the days (Ephesians 5:15-16) that I spent the week reading “Tales of a Thousand and One Arabian Nights,” with Drex, in between water-fights and futebol. It is ironic, however, for me to be reading aloud with such relish their extensive accounts of black magic and sorcery, as I have been the one in our family objecting most to the arguably milder evil supernaturalism of Harry Potter and Pokemon. Please pray for us, that we discern wisely with what to furnish our home, our hearts and our heads. ##### At the Word of Life Camp near Lisbon this week two more young people—two young men whose names I still have not discovered—from the Vivarte neighborhood decided to follow Jesus. We are praying together a team to give them, along with Filipa, Marlene and Patricia, all of whom received Christ last week, the spiritual support they need. Asking them to come to our church to get that support would require them to overcome a formidable array of cultural barriers. For example, the traditional evangelical culture inside our church is almost completely different from the culture in which these kids live from day to day. Also, to the extent they have been in church at all it will have been a Catholic Church, so crossing the threshold of an evangelical church will probably induce some measure of trauma. Following Jesus is challenge enough without adding unnecessary cultural barriers. In hopes of reducing the barriers to One—the difficulty of receiving by faith one’s death and resurrection with Christ (Romans 6)—I’m hoping we’ll go to them. We could meet at Vivarte, right there in their neighborhood, where they are already comfortable. We could emulate the same lively Christian culture they became acquainted with at Word of Life, which included essentially three components: dynamic worship music, Bible teaching, and time in small groups. Most of these components, especially the small groups, were led by Christian young people just a few years older than the kids themselves, with whom they could identify. God has a lot of work to do assembling His team if He’d like to make something like this happen here. Please continue to pray for our new believers, that the Lord Jesus Christ would abide in their hearts through faith (John 17:20-26) and that we do everything possible to nurture that faith. One thousand and one blessings from our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you for your care and prayers for us.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Aug 25 09:40:41 2003
We found a missing family member this week. He is Luke Vieira, son of Elizabeth and Armando Azevedo (see June 15, above), who we met at the prayer summit in early June. At fourteen years of age, Luke fits perfectly between our other two children. But it’s more than that. Luke first took refuge at our house last Sunday from the renovation work in his family’s apartment in Lisbon. Monday morning I asked him how he’d slept. “Like this, more or less,” he said, sprawled on the couch, “Except my feet were a little lower.” And so it went throughout the week. Luke loves Jesus, recites Monty Python, reads C.S. Lewis and plays chess. He and Debbie are the only two people in Portugal who hate the beach. We had to restrict Drexel’s movements, putting the guest room and office off limits, so that he would not follow Luke absolutely everywhere. Please pray that Luke feels at liberty to return often.

“On a forested slope east of Braga stands Portugal’s most spectacular religious sanctuary,” the giant Baroque Escadaria (stairway) and church of Bom Jesus (American Express Guide to Portugal, p. 278). We live halfway up that forested slope. Our house sits above the road that snakes through the woods to and from the summit. It is the kind of road that tempts the most conservative drivers to exceed the speed limit. The Portuguese are not the most conservative drivers. They drive exactly like the Blue Angels fly, except their safety record is far worse. During July and August, a wedding is performed in the church at Bom Jesus approximately every twelve minutes. Immediately after each ceremony a fleet of giddy groomsmen and bridesmaids descends, plummeting earthward in Mercedes and BMW’s, horns blaring, wheels squealing. But the thunderous crash you hear is not the breaking of the sound barrier. About once a week one of these merrymakers spins out of control. Then follows what is called, “The Tenões Intervalo,” when all the neighbors leave whatever they’re doing and trundle down to the road to assess the damage. Sadly, almost every community in Portugal has its own version of this drama. The Portuguese kill each other using cars with the efficiency of terrorists, the way Americans kill each other using guns. Please pray for sanity.

Drex’s 8th birthday is coming up this Saturday, after which he will have celebrated half his birthdays in Portugal, since we celebrated his 5th on the island of Madeira in the summer of 2000 during a vacation trip to Portugal. Drex may be struggling a bit with depression. It runs in the family, and he described the condition to Debbie with extraordinary clarity (not quite like Psalm 22:14-15, but close). Thank God for his emotional vocabulary, as our Seattle neighbor and friend, family counselor Kurt Dale might say. Please ask God to give us wisdom in helping him and pray that he puts on the full armor of God, so that he may be able to stand his ground (Ephesians 6:13-18).

Austin is due here this weekend for the party. In fact, she is the party. When given his choice of what he wanted to do to celebrate, Drex said he wanted to spend the whole day with her. She says via cell phone text messages that her month at camp has been a blessing, praise God.

Please continue to pray for our five new believers at Vivarte and our spiritual parenting of them. God is bringing together people to serve them.

Thank you for your love and prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Sep 1 06:40:20 2003
“Oh kitty, my kitty, our fearful trip is done . . . ,“* Austin intoned as she took up her cat, Clarise, one last time, for the trip to the vet where her companion of sixteen years and approximately 16,000 miles received the lethal injection that ended her journey. And so the book of Austin’s childhood officially closed Friday, when Clarise’s heart finally joined the rest of her bodily functions, which have long been inert. Clarise’s life was an odyssey of Homerian proportions, from the dirty frozen Chicago alley of her birth from whence she was rescued to become the centerpiece of Austin’s fifth Christmas, across the country in a drugged stupor in the back of a moving van to Seattle and finally through a labyrinthine bureaucracy and across the Atlantic beneath an airplane seat to a new country, culture and language (in Portugal, cats say, “mia,” rather than “meow”). Praise be to God who has given us charge of the animals whose lives so simply compliment our own and through whom He teaches us so much about the life of fidelity and faith. ##### Please pray for Austin, who is very excited about beginning school on the 15th but who will have early morning classes every day of the semester that will require her to get up about 24 hours earlier than she’d like for her one hour commute. Why doesn’t she move closer to school? Because living at the Instituto Bíblico Portugues was such a blessing for her last year. She does, however, hope to invest more in her friendships at the university this year in order to expand her circle of friends to include more nonbelievers, an ambition about which you might also pray. ##### We assume Drex will begin school about the same time, though his administrators still haven’t decided exactly when. He isn’t quite as excited as his sister, though he does miss his friends. ##### This week, in one of those elegant maneuvers characteristic of the Body of Christ, fourteen-year-old Luke Vieira (mentioned here last week) endured Drex’s constant attention and ate chocolate breakfast cereal with us while his mom, Elise, and eight-year-old brother, Sam, stayed with our Seattle neighbors, Barry and Lisa Spomer, as part of their American sojourn to raise support for their Lisbon ministry to youth, Crista da Onda (Crest of the Wave), and receive medical care for Sam, who was nearly deaf at birth and is due to have surgery on his ears this month. Please pray Sam’s surgery is successful and that God provides all the resources necessary for the ministry. ##### On June 15th I asked you to pray for Luciano Szabo, a Romanian who has been part of our church for a year and a half, during which time he has been separated from his young family, which was stuck in Romania. What a joy to see them all in church this morning together for the first time in so long: Luciano, his 86 year-old grandmother, his wife Graciana, his 5 year-old son Robert and his 3 year-old daughter Roxanna. Thank you for your prayers. Please forgive me, if you were among those who asked to help Luciano financially, for not keeping you abreast of their situation. If you’d still like to help them get established here in their new country you may send donations through us. ##### We have a rose in our back yard that is the same brilliant combination of pinks and organges as those spectacular sunrises over the Cascade Mountains in Seattle. Praise God’s Holy Spirit who keeps us in mind of blessings past, present and yet to come. May He bless you this week. [ *Walt Whitman, in Memories of President Lincoln, says, “O Captain! O Captain! our fearful trip is done,/The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,/The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,/While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;/But O heart! heart! heart!/O the bleeding drops of red!/Where on the deck my Captain lies,/Fallen cold and dead]
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Sep 14 16:18:47 2003
Amélia is a tiny Portuguese women in her forties who spends her summers working at an orphanage in Maputo, Mozambique, (thankfully, it's winter there) and then returns to the Instituto Bíblico Português, where she does everything, including serving as surrogate mother to Austin and the other resident students. This week Amélia took Austin to her ancestral home in central Portugal for the annual “vindima,” or gathering and processing of the grapes, which you can hardly help bumping into if you turn your head in Portugal right now. (In Portugal, grape vines grow overhead, on arbors constructed of granite posts, to provide shade and allow for underplanting of tall cabbage, which is, according to Datus Proper in his book, The Last Old Place, “the Portuguese national vegetable . . . If you fail to find tall cabbage within 20 feet of the door, you took the wrong airplane, like your baggage, and are not in Portugal.”) For Austin, this was like an exhausting day on the set of a foreign film produced in the middle of the last century. Everything would have been exactly the same then, especially the singular mingling of dust, sweat, sun and juice. This is precisely the sort of thing for which Austin came here. Please pray for her as she begins classes this week at her university in Lisbon. ##### Drex, too, is due to begin school this week. As I’ve said here before, he has paid the highest price of anyone in our family for changing countries, having none of our adult motivations for doing so, and we are hoping that he gets to enjoy some of the fruit of his labor this academic year as an established member of his primary school community—one of the “big kids.” (The school includes grades 1 through 4; Drex will be in grade 3). This year many of the students will begin learning English. Please pray that Drex enjoys his situation and that he handles himself with grace. ##### On August 4, the morning I left for the Word of Life camp in Lisbon with the kids from Vivarte, I asked you to pray for a young guy with a wonderful spirit named Sérgio. I was actually thinking of Fábio, who is one of the nicest fourteen year-olds I’ve ever met, always helping his little brother, Paulo, or just being affable to everyone. Don’t misunderstand, Sérgio is a great kid, too, who will run out for passes as long as I’ll throw the football. Both Fábio and Sérgio love to hit baseballs, too, which they are able to do thanks to the generosity of the David Elliott family, which sent them from Seattle. In any event, thank you for praying. Perhaps because of my mixed-up prayer request, there may have been some confusion in the response, and now Sérgio and Fábio also have in common that they both decided at camp to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They joined Filipa, Marlene, and Patrícia—all of whom received Christ the previous week—in the Kingdom of Light (Colossians 1:12). Five young people from our church—Jónatas, Vítor, Priscilla, Larissa and Mafalda—have volunteered to help nurture these new believers. Please ask God to increase the faith of everyone involved. ##### Every spiritual blessing to you this week, in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). Thank you for partnering with us in prayer.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: The Editor
Date: Tue Sep 23 05:07:56 2003
Jordan is currently on special assignment with Habitat/Braga's "Building on Faith" program. He will return next week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Sep 28 16:28:36 2003
One of our current projects at Vivarte is building things using wood taken from donated pallets. Kids of all ages really enjoy the work but at times I think I ought to have my head examined for wanting to keep carpentry tools around when the children’s behavior so often borders on being out of control—sometimes on this side of the border, sometimes on the other. Please pray for safety and prudence. In addition to our regularly scheduled professional artists, we are also bringing in other people to work with the kids who are willing to share their skills and passions, or who just enjoy young people. One volunteer taught dance, another will do knitting, another comedy, another kite-making, some just help out or hang out. Please pray that God uses these people and these activities to reveal to the children their special giftedness. ##### We said goodbye yesterday to most of the volunteers from our church in Seattle that have been here volunteering with Habitat, praying with us and encouraging us. One of them was Lynne Baab, a pastor with lots of experience with missionaries who said she sees evidence of your prayers all over the place here, in everything from our children’s adjustment to Portugal to the way we have been received into the community. Great work! Two members of the group, Mark and Janine Edwards, are sticking around a few more days, before continuing east towards the sunrise. They intend to spend the next seven months making their way through Europe and Asia and across the Pacific to Seattle. Please ask God to give them traveling mercies, as Anne Lamott would say, and to teach them a lot of neat stuff. ##### In 1975 Mark Bubeck was in the vanguard of the current Christian interest in spiritual warfare with his book, The Adversary. Several weeks ago I finished reading his more recent book, The Rise of Fallen Angels: Victory Over the Adversary Through Spiritual Renewal. In it Dr. Bubeck includes seven of what he calls “revival prayer patterns,” which use the promises and principles of scripture to address themes like intimacy with God, repentance and intercession, and protection from the enemy. I’ve been praying them aloud one each day. They are very powerful. Would you please consider praying them with me? To get a copy you may buy the book or order the prayer patterns in booklet form from the International Center for Biblical Counseling website: www.icbcinc.com. Dr. Bubeck writes that they also may soon be available online. ##### I begin Portuguese classes again Wednesday and I am very excited about them. Debbie begins teaching English again this week at Lancaster College which is forty-five minutes away and she is not quite as excited. Please pray for energy, attentiveness, and time together. ##### You are very kind to colabor with us in prayer. Thank you. May the Lord bless you this week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Sep 28 23:54:50 2003
Oh, and would you also please ask God to provide the Edwards, Mark and Janine, (mentioned above) with a vehicle that will take them accross eastern Europe. They'd like to pay about $100. Janine prefers the little boxy European Citroens. Thanks and glory and praise be to God, amen.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Sep 29 06:31:09 2003
Whoops, I forgot one more thing: Saturday, October 4 is the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors Long-Range Planning Meeting. Would you please pray for 1) childcare, so that I can attend while Debbie teaches English, and 2) vision, so that we can plan on doing exactly what God would like us to do. I am especially curious about the place that Angola and Mozambique, the African former Portuguese colonies, might have in the future of this Habitat affiliate because I know of four parties that are currently very interested in working in Africa: Habitat for Humanity International, our church here in Braga, our church in Seattle, and me.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Oct 6 15:33:19 2003
Debbie and I went out for a lovely dinner Friday evening—a gift from our friends Kurt and Delene Dale—because Mark and Janine Edwards stayed with Drex. The institution of babysitting does not exist in Portugal. They have no word for it. When Portuguese parents want to go out for dinner they tell the grandparents that live with them which cell phone they’re leaving on and not to wait up. The American custom of spreading out one’s family as much as is geographically and economically possible doesn’t make sense to them. Why would you want to remove from daily living the thing that affords you the greatest satisfaction—being with people who know you well and yet love you and will never leave you nor forsake you? The Portuguese are not surprised that loneliness and depression are epidemic in America. We miss our family. Pray we can see them again before too long. ##### There’s an eight-year-old Portuguese girl named Susana who lives outside Lisbon and who’s spent a considerable chunk of the last three years in hospitals and doctor’s offices with a baffling array of painful ailments. Right now her mouth is full of bleeding ulcers and her tongue is white with sores. Parents of her classmates do not want their children exposed to her. She’s an outcast. When Austin met her a few weeks ago through a friend, Susana had just received her Behçet’s diagnosis. Because Austin is now a few miles down the Behçet’s Road herself, she was able to share a bit with Susana and her family about the significance of the diagnosis. God is able to heal her (Psalm 103:3), and will, in response to our prayers (Mark 11:24). ##### For two and a half years I’ve been crippled, unable to rise from the floor, eating the crumbs that have fallen from the conversational table. Last week Jesus said to me, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk,” (Mark 8:9). Suddenly, I understand. Not just a little bit here and there. Almost everything. I’m missing so little that I can occasionally say, “Pardon me, what was that word you just used?” rather than continually scratching and clawing to hold on in conversation. So I had a conversation with a young guy at Vivarte today, Paulo, who’s always been around, about his plans to go to Spain to find work and make a home for himself, his pregnant girlfriend and the baby. My verb conjugations were ugly, but I understood everything he said, and when it was over he seemed very thankful for our conversation. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a chance to tell him how much God loves him and his little family and that I’ll be praying for him. ##### Thank you so much for your prayers for my language learning and for all the other stuff, too. We are extremely thankful to God for you. Blessed week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Tue Oct 7 15:50:52 2003
Permit me to add one more thing about Susana’s healing—and Austin’s, for that matter: “Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up,” (Luke 18:1-7) and I encourage you to read it. Dee Duke, the pastor from Oregon who led the prayer summit we attended in June told this story to encourage us to pray and not give up: When he was young, his dad, a navy officer, took him to a shipyard where an enormous ship sat at anchor. His dad asked him to sit down near the ship and watch. Then his dad leaned out over the water and began to push on the ship. “He’s really lost it now,” Dee thought to himself. His dad pushed and pushed and pushed. After 20 minutes of hard pushing the ship began to move! “There are two things I’d like you to remember about that ship,” Dee’s dad said. “Number 1: If I had stopped pushing 15 seconds earlier it would not have moved, and number 2: If you had helped me it would have moved in half the time.”
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Oct 12 15:12:12 2003
Please pray for Lucia, one of the neediest children in the Vivarte neighborhood. Lucia says she’s eleven, but acts much younger, and though she is exceedingly cheerful, she often behaves more like a little monkey—climbing all over whoever happens to be at hand—than a little girl. She rarely baths and so gets teased because she smells awful, which makes it hard even for us sometimes to give her appropriate attention. Please pray that we would be able to get through to her with the message of God’s love and that His Holy Spirit would put her in her right mind. ##### Please pray for Debbie’s English teaching, that God would use her as a witness of His love. She is getting along well with her students, including two groups of middle school kids, whom she finds particularly amusing. ##### Please pray for our neighborhood and for our relationships with our neighbors. Everyone within about a half kilometer seems to be very closely related in one way or another. They are all extremely gracious to us, especially Dona Rosa, who you may remember reading about here before, who lives next door and who last week brought us heaping plates of grapes and walnuts harvested from her vines and trees. Pray that we would be good and effective ambassadors for Christ here. ##### May the Lord bless you this week as you put your trust in Him.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Oct 13 15:32:17 2003
Please pray for Susana, the eight-year-old in Lisbon with Behçet’s. She’s in the hospital, though we’re not certain which symptoms drove her there, perhaps her inability to eat owing to a mouth full of excruciating ulcers. Austin has not been able to get in to see her. ##### Thank God He loves us!!! I had one of those days when discouragement seems to want to rain down upon you like hail—you can’t understand what people are saying, the kids are out of control, destroying things, ignoring your reprimands, you’re sweaty and stinky and dumb, and why don’t you just have a normal job instead of wasting your time here? But then you bring to mind God’s tremendous affection for you, not just in spite of your weaknesses but because of them, and you rest in Him and let the Holy Spirit give you a long vigorous spiritual back rub, especially around your neck and head, and you remember that all things are possible in Him. Glory!
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sat Oct 18 15:38:32 2003
I parked our car, Jacque, outside the home and garden store Friday and headed inside to buy a few things for Vivarte. “I’ve had it with this guy,” Jacque, our 1988 Peugeot that has never fully reconciled himself to carting around a lot of uncouth Americans, said to himself. “I’m gettin’ outta here.” He began inching slowly forward. Turning left, he headed away from the store. Not being accustomed to steering himself, he was unable to make the sharp turn to the driveway. “No problem,” he figured, “I’ll hop the curb, scoot down that little grass hill and be off to France!” He handled well the leap over the curb, but the bouncing that ensued must have taken him by surprise, because he seems to have lost his bearings. He started down the road in the wrong direction! He probably would have gotten away, though, had it not been for the quick reflexes of a nice young man named Mario Vaz, who had just finished his shopping at the home and garden store. Exiting the parking lot, Mario looked left to make sure no one was coming and turned right. As he began to pull out of his turn and accelerate, Jacque came bounding out from behind a large hedge. Mario used his own cute little red Peugeot to get Jacque to drop his defenses—namely his front driver’s-side quarter panel—and allow himself to be pinned down until reinforcements could arrive. If you’ve ever gone somewhere where you are pretty sure you left your car, only to find it missing, you have a sense of what happened after I finished my shopping. One stands alone, keys hanging limply, the parking lot seeming to have grown vast, cavernous, empty. A cold, desolate breeze rustles one’s hair. If this has happened to you, I hope for your sake that your questioning scan of the horizon was not answered by a crowd of unsmiling Iberian men standing in the road and slightly downhill, arms folded, next to a tangle of plastic, metal and glass. Thankfully in my case, this group was joined almost immediately by Victor, a friend from church, whose face, which was specifically designed for such occasions, is by far the most cheerful in northern Portugal. “These things happen,” Victor assured me cheerfully but unbelievably. (Victor’s children make up 3/5 of the young people who are discipling new believers at Vivarte.) To my surprise, this meeting was attended with none of the acrimony that would have characterized such a gathering in the United States. No one gave any indication that they had anywhere else to go. It may be that waiting and traffic accidents, both of which occur with greater frequency in Portugal than in any other civilized country, have become national pastimes, like soccer, only with greater authenticity and free admission. To take fullest advantage of such situations, motorists are prohibited by law to alter the scene of even the most minor traffic accidents until the police arrive to perform elaborate rituals involving tape measures, forms and breathalyzers. So, like newlyweds in a receiving line, the recently united parties to an accident stand and make small talk with a long procession of vehicles crawling by in single file. Victor served as master of ceremonies, assuring everyone of everyone else´s goodwill and strength of character. Mario, the driver of the cute Peugeot, was not only uninjured, he was as congenial as a person could possibly be under such circumstances. His equanimity was the only indication that we were not performing in a Disney movie. “These things happen,” he reminded me impassively. “Where?” I thought to myself, nonplussed. ##### In order to make ends meet, we’re going into the hospitality business, something we’ve talked about doing for years. We’re in the process of buying a little house near the center of Lisbon that we hope to rent to tourists on a weekly basis. Managing it is work that Debbie can do without a work visa. Austin will serve as maid, handyperson and concierge between classes at her university. We hope to begin to break even in a couple of seasons and then make a little money. Please pray for the whole undertaking, which is more complicated in Portugal than it is in America, even if one speaks fluently, which we do not. Please ask God to give us wisdom and guests. ##### Susana, Austin’s little friend in Lisbon, now has Behçet’s induced meningitis to go along with the mouthful of lesions that prevent her from eating. She is in the hospital and close to death. Time to bring out the big guns (2 Corinthians 10:3-4, Psalm 107:18-22), pray and fast on her behalf. Having someone else’s eight-year-old near death because of Behçet’s had the same affect upon Debbie, whose eight- year-old probably also has Behçet’s, that wearing a large backpack full of sand might have had. At Austin’s request, she researched neuro- Behçet’s online for Susana’s family, which served to remind her that more than half the males with Behçet’s end up blind. Austin is also taking Susana’s situation heavily. I know they’d both prefer you devote your praying to Susana rather than to them, however. ##### Thank you for praying for us this week. May the Lord surprise you with the wonders of His grace.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Thu Oct 23 14:57:14 2003
Great job praying for Susana and her family, y'all!! I just got off the phone with Austin and Susana is doing much better and consequently, her family is "10,000 times better." She is out of intensive care, she's talking and playing with dolls. Her mom says her mouth is better than it's been in years! She is still very weak and sometimes speaks with difficulty, so please don't let up on your praying. Let's pray her Behçet's right into memory! Praise God for being the Healer of all our diseases and for delighting in the well- being of His children.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: debk
Date: Mon Oct 27 01:41:44 2003
Thanks to your faithful prayers, all is well. Jordan and Drex are playing a marathon soccer game in the garage (currently 34 to 38). Please continue to pray for Susana’s complete recovery. Blessings to you and yours this coming week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Nov 3 23:36:06 2003
During the summer of 1967 racial tensions in America’s cities simmered, Boston slugger Carl Yastrzemski led the American League in batting average, home runs and runs-batted-in and Susan Michael, one of my Portuguese language classmates, got in the habit of meeting college buddies at Fenway Park for the Red Sox’ home games. She still hasn’t gotten over it. A couple of weeks ago she got up at 1 a.m. to watch the Red Sox drop the 7th game of the American League Championship Series to the Yankees in the 11th inning. Some people never learn. Nevertheless, Susan and I spent a delightful class break swapping baseball stories. She told me about mlb.com, where you can watch games on your computer. There, Drex and I have watched some of the free demos and they’ve had the same affect on him that watching baseball used to have on me—he wants to go right out and play. But it’s raining, so we play in the garage, every chance we get. Like most Portuguese garages, ours is tiled, so Drex can cover most of the distance around the Lilliputian diamond executing Rosian slides into every base, which we’ve applied with masking tape. I encourage Drex to switch hit and I pitch left-handed when he bats right, the way Mickey Mantle’s granddad did for him. Drex is at a stage where he will take all the time he can get with me. I have a powerful sense that time spent with him now is well invested and that this stage won’t last forever and maybe not even for long, so I’m trying to give him as much time as I can, even though it means neglecting my email and my homework. Please pray Drex is left with the same impression I was, that his dad is around for him. ##### Carlos, a five-year-old built like a hand-grenade, is one of my favorite kids at Vivarte. He has the tenacity of three ordinary boys. He’s never backed down from a fight even though his days are full of them, sometimes with people five times his size. His mouth, into which flows a near constant stream of junk food and out of which issues a near constant flow of vulgarities, is pocked with black sockets where teeth have rotted out. “My aunt sometimes brushes my teeth,” he explains, “but she lives a long way away.” When he needs to urinate, he pulls down his pants and does so (though, thankfully, only outside). He loves to wrestle. He’s also a wonderful artist. For some reason, when he puts marker to paper all of his energy becomes focused on drawing, with great care and color and detail, sometimes for long periods of time. Drawing transforms him. Please pray that God would transform his heart and steer him from the life of violence and neglect for which he has been training. ##### Saturday we took seven Vivarte kids and two of our interns, Carla and Luisa, to a Word of Life meeting near Porto. “I don’t know why Carla and Luisa are coming,” I complained to Debbie and Austin before the trip. “They’re just taking up space in the van that should be for kids.” Debbie and Austin guessed what would happen. Carla and Luisa both received Christ at the meeting. Please pray for them, that God would increase their faith and give them assurance of their salvation. ##### Thanks for praying with us and for us. Blessed week to you.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: debk
Date: Mon Nov 10 03:43:15 2003
Jordan finds himself with nothing to say. Hmmm. Apart from that he seems fine. Would you please join us in PRAISING GOD for the fact that Drex, for the first autumn since 1998 (age 3), appears to be having no knee problems at all? Thank you for praying for our children’s health. Blessings to you all.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Nov 16 15:46:01 2003
Please use all the prayer space you have available for us this week to pray for a young friend and brother in Christ who is suffering from massive, suicidal depression. Just address your prayers to God. He knows well to whom I refer. The Bible is clear that you have the power to impact his situation (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Please help. ##### There was a time when Drex was praying for the salvation of Austin’s friend Thomas Carlson at least a couple of times a day. Thomas is now studying for the pastorate. These days Drex is praying at least a couple of times a day for Austin’s friend Susana who is suffering so much from symptoms of Behçet’s. Maybe Susana will grow up to be a doctor, specializing in Behçet’s. A couple of years ago, when we told him about Drex’s celebrity status among his Portuguese classmates as “The American,” John Mosely, the teenage son of our American missionary pastor, assured us that the celebrity would pass soon enough, in a tone that implied that the change might not be for the better. There are indications now that the change has taken place and that Drex has been singled out for prejudicial treatment. I was struck this week that we may be setting ourselves up to follow in the footsteps of the Moselys and other families we know whose fourteen-year-olds have left home to attend Black Forest Academy in Germany, a Christian boarding school where they find other people like themselves—“Third Culture Kids,” mostly of American parents, who have grown up all over the world. We hear these kids generally regard their overseas experiences as very rich, but lonely. They don’t really fit in anywhere, except at places like Black Forest. The thought of Drex leaving when he is fourteen makes me feel real bad, like I’ve just eaten a big meal of garden dirt, and reminds me of the suffering of my own parents, who encouraged their kids to journey from home and now have grandchildren spread out all over the world. The thought of not seeing much of my own grown children and grandchildren feels like eating dirt for a long time. ##### Behold the intimacy we older Christian fellows enjoy with our Heavenly Father: He even does our hair! When I was younger, I needed a lot of hair to cover my foolishness. The revealing of more head is symbolic of expanding wisdom, is it not? ##### Thank you for your prayers. Blessed week to you.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Sun Nov 23 15:49:23 2003
Prayer and Praise Update Sunday 23 November 2003 www.kleber.com In the late 80’s, Pastor Ken Biornstad had a “Truck Ministry” in the Seattle area. Ken owned an old, dark-green Chevy pickup—Glen, I think his name was—and Glen was available to anyone who needed him. “Every now and then, people need a truck,” Ken explained. It was a way to love and serve people. “Sure you can use him!” he would say enthusiastically. When I got a truck I became Ken’s disciple. Mature trucks are key. You don’t want to notice new dings and scratches. A good example is our last truck, Steve, a 1973 Ford, who is now happily moving refugees around Seattle with World Relief. Here in Braga, the Habitat for Humanity affiliate no longer needs Manuel, a 1988 Ford with a wooden bed and a nice rain canopy, because our new construction supervisors, Luis and José Ribeiro, have plenty of trucks. But in Braga, as in Seattle, “Every now and then, people need a truck.” I know we do. We’re praying about making an offer on Manuel and getting back into Truck Ministry. ##### António is one of Vivarte’s best friends. As president of the resident’s association in the neighborhood in which we operate, he does everything he can to promote our work. Though he is probably only in his late forties, António moves as if he were in his late eighties, because he is nearly crippled by what I imagine must be some form of extreme arthritis. The joints one can see—mostly those of his hands—are horribly swollen, disfigured and immobilized. The joints one cannot see operate about as well. I told António a couple of weeks ago that I am praying for his complete healing. “The worst is past,” he replied without elaborating, then changed the subject. Every time I see him we (gently) shake hands, which in this case I consider the laying on of hands, and I ask God to restore him to full mobility, that God may be glorified and that António may serve Him without discomfort. Senhor António’s healing, like that of Susana, who we are asking God to heal of symptoms of Behçet’s, will be a miracle of Biblical proportions. But we’re talking about God, who does much bigger things than this all the time and of whom it is said, “the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion,” (Isaiah 30:18). Jesus spent most of His time on earth healing people. If I understand the Bible correctly, our offense lies not in asking too much, but in asking too little (John 14:12-14, James 4:2). ##### We are thankful for a lot of things, and your prayers are near the top to the list. Blessed Thanksgiving to you all.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Dec 1 15:35:26 2003
The Portuguese are intensely proud of the independence they have maintained, at times with great difficulty and against all odds, from Spain since their nation’s inception in 1139. The little dark cloud over this long run of autonomy was a 17th century blip during which the two countries shared a king as a result of a royal technicality. That foolishness came to end on December 1, 1640, and therefore, today is Restoration Day, as in restoration of independence from Spain, and none of us goes to school or to work. This only seems just to us, since we plowed right through Thanksgiving Day last week as if no one had ever heard of turkey and stuffing. Our family postponed our own Thanksgiving celebration until Saturday, when Austin arrived here for a couple of days and we all went out to dinner at one of our favorite Braga restaurants. There, we continued our long-standing tradition of allowing really great cooks to do all the Thanksgiving work for us and we were rewarded with exactly the sort of colorful, lavish, variegated repast we used to enjoy at the table of Julie Alford, Debbie’s brother’s wife, when we lived in Seattle. I think it was just the meal she would have served, if she were Portuguese. Four is certainly not an ideal number for a Thanksgiving celebration, but we were nevertheless very, very thankful. In Portugal, when a guy and a gal become romantically involved they may decide to become “namorados.” This means different things to different people. You may remember reading here before that Drex had a namorada, a delightful little minx named Ana. Drex and Ana continue to be good friends; the romantic element of their relationship seems to have been uncomplicated and short-lived. On the other hand, Austin’s relationship with Vitor, a thirty-two-year-old Portuguese seminary professor and junior high science teacher with a quick smile and a gentle spirit, with whom she agreed to namorar last week, is much more interesting. They seem to be building it well, upon prayer and faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray along with them, shall we, and see what the Lord may want to do?
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Dec 1 15:37:20 2003
The Portuguese are intensely proud of the independence they have maintained, at times with great difficulty and against all odds, from Spain since their nation’s inception in 1139. The little dark cloud over this long run of autonomy was a 17th century blip during which the two countries shared a king as a result of a royal technicality. That foolishness came to end on December 1, 1640, and therefore, today is Restoration Day, as in restoration of independence from Spain, and none of us goes to school or to work. This only seems just to us, since we plowed right through Thanksgiving Day last week as if no one had ever heard of turkey and stuffing. Our family postponed our own Thanksgiving celebration until Saturday, when Austin arrived here for a couple of days and we all went out to dinner at one of our favorite Braga restaurants. There, we continued our long-standing tradition of allowing really great cooks to do all the Thanksgiving work for us and we were rewarded with exactly the sort of colorful, lavish, variegated repast we used to enjoy at the table of Julie Alford, Debbie’s brother’s wife, when we lived in Seattle. I think it was just the meal she would have served, if she were Portuguese. Four is certainly not an ideal number for a Thanksgiving celebration, but we were nevertheless very, very thankful. ##### In Portugal, when a guy and a gal become romantically involved they may decide to become “namorados.” This means different things to different people. You may remember reading here before that Drex had a namorada, a delightful little minx named Ana. Drex and Ana continue to be good friends; the romantic element of their relationship seems to have been uncomplicated and short-lived. On the other hand, Austin’s relationship with Vitor, a thirty-two-year-old Portuguese seminary professor and junior high science teacher with a quick smile and a gentle spirit, with whom she agreed to namorar last week, is much more interesting. They seem to be building it well, upon prayer and faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray along with them, shall we, and see what the Lord may want to do? ##### Thank you for your prayers this week. The Lord be with you.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: The Editor
Date: Fri Dec 5 01:18:56 2003
Jordan Kleber is in Lisbon. He will return next week.
--------------------------------------------------
Name: Jord
Date: Mon Dec 8 19:15:24 2003
We're in Lisbon setting up Casa Joaquina for business, which opens December 27 with a family from Indiana, thanks to Debbie's advertisements on the internet. We only got the keys Friday afternoon and spent the night there for the first time Friday evening. We've got a tremendous amount of work to do in three weeks. ##### We saw the house so little before we decided to buy it that both Debbie and I were very curious to see what our impressions would be when we got better acquainted with it and the area where it is situated. Now I'd say it's about as perfect as a centuries old little servant's cottage could be. It is perched right above the most vibrant, interesting part of Lisbon, which is a great old world city. ##### Send us your favorite bed and breakfast ideas so we can make it as hospitable as possible for adventurers who have crossed the ocean to explore Portugal. ##### Blessings, Jord
----

Return to Current Updates