Kleber 2004 Prayer and Praise Archive

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2004 Archive


Name: Jord
Date: Fri Jan 2 16:33:28 2004
For most of December our preparations at Casa Joaquina seemed to me like an athletic event: lots of action, quick decisions made on the fly, fatigue, running, pushing, encouraging one another. It was a lot of fun and I concluded—partly to justify the fact that I did nothing else in celebration of Christmas—that collaborating intensively this way was a Christmas gift Debbie and I gave to one another. In recognition, Debbie tied a red ribbon through two of the big, antique, telescoping, Casa Joaquina front door keys and put them with the other gifts Christmas morning. “Thank you, Sweetheart! It’s just what I wanted!” she gushed gracefully. But when I had to return to work right after the presents were opened I began to feel sorry for myself. I felt like we had played enough extra innings. I wanted to go home to bed. Then at 10 p.m. Friday the 26th, with 10 hours to go before our first guests were due and 8 hours of work left, I used the toilet as a ladder to caulk around the new bath fan. But toilets only make good ladders when they’re bolted to the floor, and this one had been moved from its place so that the dryer could be installed. When it crashed to the floor, in order to describe my feelings to Debbie, I borrowed language from my adolescence. I keep hoping I will forget that language. Anyway, the home store was open ‘til 11, so we pieced together another toilet and got a few minutes of sleep before the guests arrived. ##### There’s still plenty to do, but the house turned out very nicely, thanks to Debbie. She did a spectacular job coordinating a thousand things from window treatments to walking tours to world wide web access. The guests seemed pleased. Now we will see what being in business in Lisbon means for our lives in Braga. I already feel disconnected. I missed time at Vivarte in December and only got to church here once. My hope is that Casa Joaquina will subsidize and leave time for us to be involved in other ministries. We trust God will show us what is reasonable. ##### Our Seattle friend Kurt Dale wrote a warm note in his family’s Christmas card to us, but something in it brought to mind a vision—which I suspect will be for me the abiding image of this Christmas—of Kurt standing on a beach, watching us sail away in the summer of 2001. He stands there, holding his daughter Julia, until the boat becomes a tiny spec in the distance, then disappears. Still he stands, watching the spot on the horizon where he last saw us, as if we might reappear. After a while, he sits down and he and Julia play in the sand, every now and then looking back up to the spot, to see if anything is there. They play a long time, while something pulls at their hearts. Finally, they stand and stretch and notice the time, and have to go. Sometimes they return to the spot but now, after two and a half years, our faces do not come so easily to mind. It was a warm note and I know Kurt loves me, but I have the feeling my face may not so easily come to mind now. Thanks be to God our comfort, who gives us friends in the first place from whom absence is an affliction. ##### Please forgive my absence from here. I’ve missed being in touch this way. Blessed week to you.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jan 11 16:14:16 2004
As soon as the family from Indiana checked out of Casa Joaquina last week I hurried back down to continue work on the new downstairs bathroom that we had hoped to have ready for this group and that we really hope to have ready for the guests coming in February. I’m digging a hole to put in a pump for reasons that are of no general interest. My excavations slowed and eventually came to a stop when I began to encounter what at first appeared to be tree roots, but soon turned out to be the roots of no tree I had ever seen before, a tree with spinal discs and ball-and-socket joints. After realizing that I had more likely met an Owen than an oak, and that what’s more I may have met Owen’s entire family, I thought perhaps maybe, in a city that is thousands of years old, with lots of people living and dying all the time, this sort of thing is normal. (It isn’t normal in Seattle.) So we called a friend, the one we knew would say, “Forget it. It’s no big deal. It happens all the time,” if anyone would, and instead she said, “We’ll put the kids to bed and come right over. You don’t want to face this alone.” So instead of the anticipated hard labor, we spent a relaxing evening with friends and about twelve police officers and police photographers. A couple of squad cars squeezed into tiny “dead-end” Rua Joaquina so none of the neighbors could get out. The last officers left a little after midnight after we had made a date with an archeologist who wanted to attend the “remaining” excavations. The following day I saw my neighbor, a very friendly man who has gone out of his way to make us feel welcome, washing his car, and I went out to apologize for the commotion and the traffic jam. “Sorry about that,” I explained, “but I’m digging downstairs in order to put in a pump and I found . . . “ “. . . the bones,” he finished my sentence for me. He explained that Rua Joaquina is behind a church and in the old days, that’s where they put the cemetery. “We all know about the bones but we don’t tell anyone when we dig ‘em up because everyone makes such a fuss.” So it may not be normal in Lisbon, but it’s normal on Rua Joaquina. We haven’t figured out yet how to make this a selling point on the website. ##### Another nice thing about Lisbon for us is Sam Vieira, son of Elizabeth and Armando Azevedo, who you may have read about here on June 15 after we met them at a prayer summit, and brother of Luke Vieira, who you may have read about here August 25. Sam is Drex’s age and, as the son of an American mother and a Portuguese father, he is the only third grader we know who shares Drex’s culture. Drex has not described the sensation of being with a peer who moves comfortably back and forth between Portuguese and English but he clearly enjoys it—he gets almost as excited about being with Sam as he used to get about being with his friends in Seattle. Please ask God to direct us as we make plans affecting Drex’s emotional well-being. ##### Now I’d like to ask your advice: We pray that Casa Joaquina will be a blessing to visitors. One way it may be is through books. Imagine you’re in Europe on holiday for a week or two. You’re not in Europe every day and you’ve been looking forward to it and want to get as much out of it as you can, so your mind may be open in a way it is not ordinarily. What book or books would you like to happen upon to keep you company when you’re not sight-seeing? What book might God use to speak to our visitors? Don’t just give us the obvious titles to help us build our little library. We don’t want to overwhelm people. C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton will have their places on the shelves, but tell us too through what books God has spoken to you softly, perhaps indirectly. Thanks for your help. ##### You are very kind to pray with us and for us. May the Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jan 18 13:57:21 2004
Drex has decided to be an engineer when he grows up. He got an excellent report card this week. Debbie had a conference with his teacher, who is very pleased with his work. Thanks be to God. ##### I took the Habitat truck for its annual inspection this week. We don’t expect to pass these inspections the first time. We just go and get the list of things they want us to fix and then take the list and the vehicle to Senhor Ezekiel, our mechanic. As always, after Senhor Ezekiel had finished, I returned to the inspector. Something incomprehensible in Portuguese was still wrong with the left rear brake, but the inspector said he would give me the prize, a paper window badge that wards off police for twelve months, and told me I should take the truck back to the mechanic and have him take care of the brake. “Suuure,” I said in my most sincere Portuguese. As I punched out the badge and prepared to slip it into its little clear plastic window sleeve, I thought to myself, “No way I’m taking this truck back in. I couldn’t explain the problem if I wanted to. I’ve got my badge; I’m golden for twelve months.” At that instant the badge slipped from my hand and disappeared on its way towards the asphalt of the wet, dimly lit parking lot. I couldn’t tell whether it had fallen to the ground or inside the open door of the truck. After searching earnestly for several minutes I prayed, “OK, Lord, I’ll take the truck back in. May I please have my badge?” but even as I prayed it I knew I was lying. After several more minutes of searching, that included a lot of thinking about how I was going to explain the situation to the inspector and quite a bit of crawling around on my belly beneath the truck on the rain-soaked, cigarette-butt-littered pavement, I finally prayed, “OK! OK! I’ll go. I mean it.” This time I meant it. I looked in front of the tire in a place I had already looked eight times and there was the badge, lying on the pavement. “Cute,” I prayed. I went back inside and asked the inspector to write Senhor Ezekiel a note, explaining the problem. I’m intending to drop the truck off with him this week. ##### We should pray like children. Our Heavenly Father, Who is always with us, has encouraged us to ask Him for what we want, in order that He might pour out His blessings in response to our prayers. Some of this is serious work. Some of it is play. My new goal is to pray for everyone I see, to make my eyes agents of blessing (Matthew 6:22). In a crowd, I start with a general blessing, and then I go after people individually. Sometimes it’s easy to see what to pray for. Sometimes you have to leave it up to God. I pray for everything: weight loss, hair restoration, salvation, marriages, healings. When I get to heaven I want to find thousands of people I’ve never met who are there or who were blessed in response to my prayers. Why not? Power should be going out from us, just as it did from Jesus (Luke 8:46, John 14:12, Galatians 2:20). ##### I was down in Lisbon again Friday and Saturday to finish the excavations below Casa Joaquina in the company of two nice archeologists, who attended because it is still illegal to throw out human remains with the trash. It is their ethical responsibility to oversee the disposal of people’s bones. That seems good. They guessed the bones are from the 17th or 18th century. We found a couple of heads, which was creepy. I kept a few pieces of broken pottery, which they guessed to be from the same era, as souvenirs. Also at Casa Joaquina, a single daffodil popped out of a pot on the terrace that we had put in front of the dryer vent. It was a dirty trick to play on the daffodil, who came up expecting to find March, but set against the gray cityscape, the tiny spot of sun was like a song. I sent Debbie a phone text message saying it felt like spring in Lisbon. She messaged back unamused from Braga that she could see her breath indoors. It feels like the ground is rumbling beneath us, moving us ineluctably towards Lisbon. ##### Thanks be to God who has given us His Son and along with Him has graciously given us all things (Romans 8:32). And thanks to you for asking Him to keep it up. Blessed week to you.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jan 25 16:35:31 2004
We’ve heard from Austin that Susana, the eight year old in Lisbon who was near death from Behçet’s related meningitis a couple of months is recovering at home, praise be to God. Thank you very much for praying for her. Please keep it up. ##### It is not clear what we will do in April, when my contract with Vivarte ends. Would you please ask God to make His will clear to us? ##### As always, we are very thankful for your prayers. May the Lord bless you in surprising ways this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Feb 2 14:18:15 2004
All of the autonomy and significance of a sovereign nation, which in the United States seem to derive their immensity and grandeur from the vast landscape from which they emanates, here resides along a narrow strip of rolling soil a little bigger than New Jersey. The trip from Braga through Porto to Lisbon, which takes about four hours, is to the Portuguese person what the trip from Los Angeles through Chicago to New York and Washington, D.C. is to the American. Just as the American on such a journey is moved by the beauty, complexity, simplicity, routine, toil, dirt, centuries and other resources that go into the making of a country by a people working out their salvation under the mighty hand of God, so is the Portuguese person moved, only in a fraction of the time. Contemplating this, I moved through the Portuguese countryside Saturday morning on my way to work on Casa Joaquina by train, and the mist and rain that obscured the view and moved all but the hardiest creatures indoors seemed the perfect accompaniment to my thoughts: “Weather like this and land like this, are not for sissies. A lot of real living has been going on for a real long time on those hills and in those fields, and in those stone houses, with their roofs that sag beneath the weight of their heavy tiles and the combined histories of the generations who have sheltered there.” Steel towers a hundred feet high carrying electrical cables paralleled the tracks half a mile away, many crowned by nests six feet in diameter. In some, the storks were at home: “’Fly south for the winter,’ he says. ‘It will be warm and sunny,’ he says. Why couldn’t we winter in the Algarve, like Dave and Anne Swallow? That’s what I’d like to know.” ##### Don’t bother trying to visit Debbie’s website, www.portugueseroots.com, today. It’s clogged with traffic since the Portuguese read about it in the cover story of the Sunday magazine insert in Expresso, the country’s most highly regarded newspaper. That cover shows Debbie, Drex and me walking in front of Braga’s main cathedral. The article, for which we and the story of Debbie’s discovery of my Portuguese heritage are window dressing, is about genealogical research. Several of Drex’s friends brought copies to school for autographs but I should be able to get away with relative anonymity, since the article identifies me as Jason (a not uncommon mistake for Jordan) McDaniel (my mother’s maiden name). “No, no, it just looked like me,” I’ll say. ##### Please pray with us this week for the health, comfort and encouragement of our 80 year-old neighbor, Francisco, who is in serious condition in the hospital, and for Eliza, the wife of a different Francisco (one of our pastors), who is close to death with cancer. We’re praying that she may be healed even now. ##### Thank you for your prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: The Webmistress
Date: Wed Feb 4 10:56:12 2004
EXPRESSO ARTICLE. OK, ok, ok. Here's a quick translation, including photos. My favorite part is the subtle, not-so-kind comparison they make between Seattle and Braga. (Seattle=high-tech; Braga=NOT) Point your browser to http://www.PortugueseRoots.com/expresso2004jan.html
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Name: Jord
Date: Tue Feb 10 15:39:37 2004
Back and forth, back and forth from Lisbon I go, almost every weekend, getting Casa Joaquina ready for guests due to arrive on the 16th. And always, along with a backpack packed filled with clothes, work clothes, and enough books to make the most of the 8 hours of train travel, I carry a sack full of tools weighing 150 pounds, only to discover that the one thing I really needed I left in Braga. I carry the same sack of tools all over Braga these days, now that we have opened our second Vivarte location, in another social housing neighborhood. I’m using the tools to make games and puzzles of wood with the kids. Tramping about the old city, the sack on my back, hand saws protruding, another bag of ordinary work and school stuff slung over a shoulder and miscellaneous materials, sporting equipment and supplies in either hand, I feel like some sort of medieval tinker or vagabond. What sort of impression are people getting of Americans? Speaking of Vivarte, we are having difficulty getting and keeping teachers. With the new space, our need for teachers has doubled. Please ask God to raise up Godly artists, men and women, who will come to love and teach our kids. Also, please ask Him to give us wisdom and grace as we discuss how best to maintain an atmosphere where artists can teach and young people can learn. The young people we work with are not accustomed to things like quiet, independent activity and respect for one another’s work, and at times they do not seem anxious to learn. Actually, that’s a misleadingly diplomatic understatement. The neighborhood motto is, “Partem Tudo,” (Break Everything). And that is generally what a lot of them try to do. This can be discouraging for those of us who really love them and repulsive to those who would merely like to teach them. Finally, with respect to Vivarte, please pray for our first regular Christian youth gathering, scheduled for Saturday, February 21. We plan to have plenty of music and singing, a little bit of Biblical conversation, and time in small groups. We hope to leave our denominational differences at the door and labor together—Protestants and Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, Baptists and Methodists—in support of the kids. This will require an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. ##### Francisco, the neighbor we asked you to pray for last week, died Saturday morning. I was praying that Francisco would get better. Going to be with the Lord, though better by far (Philippians 1:23), is not what I had in mind. People often ask, “What about when God doesn’t answer prayers?” Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it,” (John 14:13-14). No sense arguing with Him, but there certainly appear to be times when He does not make good on that promise. What can we say? Well, it’s possible we have more to learn about praying. Also, creating and operating the universe must be a complicated job, and it may be that things are at work that we do not completely understand. Finally, we cannot know how much worse things might have been had we not prayed. All of which adds up to a need for more and better praying. Please pray for Francisco’s widow, Rosa, who we love, and who has been caring for him for many decades, and will need to find other things to do. ##### Thank you for laboring with us in prayer. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Feb 16 16:11:45 2004
In America, the Jackson family alone makes more news in a day than all the newsmakers in Portugal make in month. To give you a sense of how starved the Portuguese people are for news, I’ll tell you that one of the big three broadcasting companies called today, after having read the article in the Expresso, asking if we will come to Porto for a television or radio interview about our decision to immigrate from the United States. We are praying about it. The thing that impressed me most about the article in the Expresso was the fact that it was so clearly the work, the art, of the writer, Cristina Carvalho. Cristina put together her article, to serve her purposes—which is not to say her purposes were ignoble, only that by consenting to take part we were agreeing to be incorporated into her art. Even the part of the article that talked about us was not about us; it was about what Cristina wanted to convey. Part of us wants to say yes to the TV or radio interview just to be nice. Part of us wants to say yes so that we can use it as an opportunity to witness to God’s lovingkindness towards us. But part of us knows that what ends up being part of the interview will not be under our control and that those who do control it will have their own agenda. Part of us remembers that most second graders speak Portuguese better than I do and that part of us does not look forward to the ridicule that exposure will provoke. The bright side, of course, is that I will not understand most of the ridicule. The whole thing is completely trivial, so please do not waste any time praying about it yourself after you finish this paragraph. Your will be done, o God. ##### I began work on my first book over the weekend. The book is called Little Lettuces, or Alfacinhos, as people from Lisbon are called, which is an allusion to James Joyce’s collection of short stories called Dubliners, which is the only thing he ever wrote that I can understand. In Little Lettuces, as in Dubliners, we will get to know the people of the city, but there the similarity ends. In Little Lettuces, we will be getting acquainted with the people of Lisbon by way of its statues and monuments. Lisbon is packed with statues. I’ll bet there are fifty or more, spread out all over town. Who are these guys? (And they are all guys). How did they get here? What’s the breakdown? And aside from the achievements that got them bronzed, what sorts of fellows were they, really? Did they have to sacrifice ordinary things like wives and children in pursuit of acclaim? Were they nice guys or just driven? And based on what we learn from questions like these, we’ll look at the question, what does a guy have to do to live a life that warrants a statue, and in particular, a statue in Lisbon? Does a foreigner have a chance? At what point does a fellow need to put aside ordinary pleasures and pasttimes if one is to become statuesque? I envision a whole new field of study, complete with university degree programs: Statuistics, the study of what it takes to become a statue. It only makes sense: all the other degree programs are merely means towards the end of Statuistics. If you do really well in poli sci, or physics or computer science, maybe, someday, you end up a statue somewhere. Why not just study to the test? Decide where you’d like to be a statue, study what the precedents and requirements are, and get ‘em done. Why, a fellow might retire, a statue, at forty, assuming he only wants to stand in front of a library in a small town. As we walk around Lisbon, a thing I love to do, we’ll also get to know some of the people who are living and working at the feet of these famous guys and find out what they’re thinking, of 21st century life in the corner of Europe, fame, and how they’d like to be remembered, among other things. I’ll write the first couple of chapters, about a couple of statues within a short walk of our house, and you can send them to all your publishing friends so that they can give me a nice contract and a little advance, and I can take time from my many other lucrative ventures in order to write it. ##### In Portugal, cleaning up after your dog is prohibited by law. It is believed that canine feces ward off evil spirits, and not without reason: only the most intrepid spirits will return after setting foot here. The Portuguese used to pick up after their dogs, but then in the 8th century, the Moors invaded and found nothing to distract them from the burgeoning countryside, and so they stayed here happily for hundreds of years. Then the tourists conquered the Moors, and the Portuguese, who had learned much, realized that conventional warfare would not suffice. In the 20th century, the invention of the waffle sole and wall to wall carpeting greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the new strategy. Many victims don’t notice they’re hit until they reach the back bedroom. At first, the newcomer might be shocked by the prevalence on Portuguese sidewalks of dog waste in all stages of decay. It appears to be always early autumn in a forest of ca-ca trees. After the initial surprise, however, most people come to appreciate the sagacity of the Portuguese plan, scrape off their shoes, and take their business to Spain. ##### Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Thank you for praying with us and for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Tue Feb 24 08:54:51 2004
Debbie generally does not care for poetry, but she likes this poem, penned especially for her in the Casa Joaquina guestbook by bestselling author Valerie Martin, (Italian Fever; Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis), who, along with Margaret Atwood and their respective husbands, checked out this Monday morning: “In all our travels/ we’ve never seen a/ casa so comfy/ as Joaquina.” Debbie emailed her poem to Francis Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun) who had asked whether the house would be quiet enough for her to write. Ms’s Martin and Mayes are acquaintances, perhaps as a result of having both lived in and written about Italy at length, and Ms. Martin’s testimony was sufficient to persuade Ms. Mayes and her husband to make a reservation for March. Praise God for bringing us renters!
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Name: debk
Date: Wed Mar 3 17:23:58 2004
Have we mentioned that every penny of Austin's $10,000+ medical bills (resulting from her Behçet's flare in the USA last year) was waived? Every doctor, lab, clinic and hospital agreed to completely forgive all charges. Thank you, Lord.
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Name: Jord
Date: Fri Mar 5 02:21:16 2004
In the summer of 2002, Stan Arrollado traveled from his home in Huntington Beach, California, to Braga, Portugal, to be part of a Habitat for Humanity Global Village team that was renovating the home of Dona Joaquina and her family. Stan was an enormous asset to that team, full of the Holy Spirit and willingness and cheer. By the time the trip ended, he was also full of love for Sandra Costa, Habitat’s volunteer coordinator. In the summer of 2003, Stan and Sandra were married, and Stan left his life in Los Angeles and moved to Braga. As everyone knows, couples in their first year of marriage face many challenges, largely because they come from two very different family cultures. Words like “love” mean one thing in your home, and may mean something very different in the home across the street. It stands to reason, therefore, that Stan and Sandra would be facing a particularly challenging time right now. It has been so challenging that Stan has been staying at our house for some time now, and the future of Stan and Sandra’s marriage is extremely uncertain. This is an SOS, or perhaps I should say, SOM, prayer request. Please, please pray that God will do everything necessary to save their marriage. “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day,” the Bible says, (Proverbs 4:18), and I feel as if the sun is coming up upon my life in Portugal after a very long night. This is because I am really understanding what people are saying and I am to the point where I can convey a lot of what I’d like to say. This has meant that I have been having some rich conversations, and I am very thankful. One of those conversations occurred yesterday with Anabela Pereira, my boss, the executive director of Fundação Bomfim, the foundation that operates Vivarte. We talked about our vision for Vivarte as a means of sharing the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with children, teenagers, their families, artists, teachers and volunteers from all over Europe and the world. (We’ve had volunteers from England, Hungary, Poland, Greece, America, and Japan). She said she’d like to renew my contract for one more year. That means we can stay at least another year. Thanks be to God.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Mar 7 15:37:37 2004
In the midst of running around Casa Joaquina yesterday morning getting it ready to show to a potential renter I lost my patience and snapped at Drex. It was just the sort of small, erosive incident that makes all the difference in the world between growing up in a safe place where one can flourish in the light of God’s love and growing up in constant fear that one of the people you need desperately may at any moment bite off your head. We like to refer to these things as “No big deal.” I felt lousy. Driving home, I said to Drex, “Thank God He loves us and forgives us, even though we sometimes behave badly and raise our voices at our sons.” “There’s nothing like being forgiven,” Drex said. Amen. ##### A frightening cultural thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago: It was mid-afternoon, and I wanted some caffeine, which is not an unusual sensation for me around two or three o’clock. But today something was different . . . what was it? . . . Then, suddenly, to my surprise and dismay, I realized that what I really wanted was not a tall steaming cup of strong, black, aromatic, American-style coffee, with a few bubbles from the pour arrayed in a crescent lingering at the edge and the ceiling fan reflected in it’s glassy ebony surface, but a caffeine injection from a tiny Portuguese toy cup that I would hold with three fingers and throw back in three sips and thirty seconds. Next thing you know I’ll have trouble conjugating English verbs. ##### Debbie has become virtually an internet pastor to a church of Behçet’s sufferers who congregate in an online chat-room on Saturday evenings. Only problem is, most of them are in the United States, anywhere from five to eight hours behind us, so it is not unusual for their lively services to go until 5 a.m., our time. Last night, another person arrived to lead the group around 1 a.m., but Debbie stayed until nearly 5 anyway, just because they were all having so much fun. A lot of these folks are in pain, isolated, and depressed, having been told by everyone including their doctors for years that they are hypochondriacs. Praise God that that Debbie can be an encouragement and helpful source of information. ##### Thank you for walking with us and praying with us. May the Lord bless you abundantly this week (John 10:10).
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Mar 14 16:10:45 2004
The massacres coincided eerily here in Iberia Thursday, so that on Friday the front of every newspaper was covered with blood from Madrid and the back of every newspaper was covered with blood from the Passion of the Christ, which opened in theatres just a few hours after the explosions. Not only did the two events look very similar, it was interesting to consider their connection, the attacks on Thursday having a hand in necessitating the attack on Good Friday. One of my many reactions to the movie, which I saw Friday night, was wondering for how much of the blood shed in that Roman courtyard I have been responsible, which of those little pieces of bone or shards of glass had my name on it? On the other hand, is there any reason to hope that when I allow God to work through me as an instrument of His love I might somehow diminish ever so slightly the suffering that was necessary, enabling Jesus to say, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), a fraction of a second earlier than He might have otherwise? ##### Lots of good things are happening at Vivarte. It is very common these days for our little space to be a hive of activity, with children and teenagers busily working on a variety of projects with the help of professors, creative assistants and volunteers. Some of the kids literally sing praise songs as they work! Working alongside these young people gives us lots of opportunities to affirm them, through our words and actions, and to communicate to them that they are precious to God and have been specially gifted by Him. The same holds true for our professors and volunteers: through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit we hope to create an atmosphere where all the people who work with us will get a sense of God’s love for them. But Manuela Quintaneiro, the psychologist who has overseen the project, is leaving at the end of this month. Her replacement is being sought. I will be taking on more management responsibility. Please pray for Manuela, that God will bless her in the work she has ahead, and ask Him to raise up just the right person to replace her. Also, pray that I will be able to communicate lovingly and effectively with everyone involved. ##### Both Austin and Drex have been taking a food supplement for some time now that seems to be significantly diminishing their Behçet’s symptoms. Thanks be to God! ##### You are more than champions for praying for us (Romans 8:37). May the Lord lead you forth in triumph this week (2 Corinthians 2:14).
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Mar 29 04:59:34 2004
The clothesline attached to the second floor of our house runs up and out across the backyard to a 5 meter mast at the back of the garden. Saturdays we wash the bed sheets, and if the sun is shining, I love to hang them out to dry. As I attach the feet of the sheets to the line, the top, the part you’ll pull up around your nose when you go to bed, brushes through the tangle of intensely fragrant flowering jasmine that climbs the stair rail to the second story door. Then the sheets take off, gliding past the persimmon tree and out into the wind. Exhilarated, they billow out like sails, going from white to gold in the sun and casting crazy shadows on the lawn below. Later, lying down to sleep, it is impossible to mistake them for sheets that have been through the dryer. They remain exhilarated. The wind and the sun and the jasmine, which they have absorbed, they return to you. They’re substantial and cool and gentle, not hot and harassed and thin and worn and over dry like sheets from the dryer. As if God Himself has made your bed (Psalm 127:2). ##### Some of the transitions our children make from one stage of development to the next are greeted with unmitigated joy. Such a transition is the transition out of diapers. Others are more ambiguous. Yesterday Drex got tired of waiting for me to read to him, so he picked up the book we were reading together, the Pearls of Lutra, by Brian Jacques, and discovered that he could just as easily read it himself. When he demonstrated his discovery, I was reminded of seeing young children recite Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech from memory: such big words coming out of such a small person! It gives one hope. But in the contorted positions I have assumed with my children for purposes of reading together I have found some of the greatest joys of my life! And now I am nearly finished. ##### Maybe I can find children with whom to read in Angola. Plans are being laid at our church for a program called CESTA, which means “basket,” in Portuguese, and stands for Construção, Educação, Saude (Health), Testamunho (Christian witness), and Agricultura. A guiding principle is that CESTA will not arrive recipe in hand wanting to implement its own solutions to Angola’s problems, but will work alongside local people long term, helping them implement their own solutions. When I see the photographs of the conditions that exist I want intensely to be part of the work. The other people involved would like me to lead Construção, the construction team. The only reason I imagine that anything good could come of that leadership is that all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27). The array of obstacles to my participation is vast, beginning with the $1500 cost of traveling there this summer with the leaders of the other four areas in order to formulate more specific plans, and including the fact that I do not envision moving to Angola. Please ask God to direct us. ##### God bless you for loving us and praying for us. May He fill your life to overflowing with His Holy Spirit this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Apr 4 16:09:39 2004
The Portuguese are very proud of their “Age of Discoveries,” that part of the 15th and 16th centuries when Portuguese explorers were establishing the original worldwide web. We are praying that the 21st century will go down in history as the Portuguese “Age of Rediscovery” of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the message that ennobles people of every tribe and nation who put their trust in the Living God. Please pray with us and pray that in the midst of the familiar music and rituals of Holy Week the people of Portugal see and hear the new things that God is doing (Isaiah 42:9). ##### Thanks for praying for the “Amigos do Cristo” meetings we’re having every other Sunday evening at Vivarte to encourage our new believers—and anyone else who wants to come—in their Christian faith. I’ve just returned from one and it was great. We had twelve kids ranging in age from 9 to 16, singing and asking questions and raising difficult issues and generally showing interest in the things of God. May He continue to direct us as we try to cultivate these little seedlings (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). ##### Debbie’s mom is with us, filling Drex’s emotional tank to overflowing. It is a great blessing to have her. ##### Thank you very much for praying for us. Blessed Passover.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Apr 18 12:01:34 2004
I took Drex and a friend of his to a dinosaur exhibit in Lisbon Friday. I was impressed with how happy the carnivores look, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, how melancholy seem the herbivores. This is because the carnivores were actually the morning creatures of prehistory. They rose early and hungry and set about devouring their neighbors, which naturally evolved into a certain buoyancy of spirit, which is why they’re always smiling. These dinosaurs evolved over millions of years into chief executive officers and employees of the IRS. Meanwhile, for the dinosaurs who slept late, after the disheartening discovering that several of their number were missing, there was nothing left to eat but plants, which further lowered their spirits and their metabolisms. These dinosaurs were the ancestors of economists and all mutant forms. The boys enjoyed the exhibit and emerged hungry, so I took them directly to McDonald’s for some meat. ##### If you’re on the Behçet’s team as we are, two things you don’t want are neurological involvement and eye involvement. It’s much nicer when your panoply of symptoms concentrates itself closer to the ground, even if it does render you immobile. You’re in the big leagues when it gets into your head. Reports of blindness within forty-eight hours of the onset of eye irritation have a way of making your meals seem a little bland. So it was with some alarm that we found both Austin and Drex with irritated eyes this week, which irritation continues. Austin saw an ophthalmologist who loaded her up with drops and goops that seem to have helped a little. We’re still hoping that Drex’s problem derives from the windy sand-strewn beach across the street from the above-mentioned McDonald’s so we haven’t taken him to the doctor yet, though if things don’t improve, it won’t be long now. Please pray that our children retain clear vision at least six or seven more decades, unless the Lord returns first, at which point their clear vision is assured (1 Corinthians 13:12). ##### Please forgive me for not showing up here last Sunday. I wanted to, but I was bustling about much of the weekend preparing for volunteers who came to Braga from London and Lisbon to work for Habitat for Humanity and Vivarte. One thing I failed to do was adequately prepare the kids in the Vivarte neighborhood for the arrival on their turf of the group of teenage volunteers from Lisbon. Consequently, they responded as if they were being invaded and resorted to the first defense that came to mind, which was racism, because a significant proportion of the Lisbon contingent was black. Nevertheless, God did a lot of good things and touched a lot of hearts, as He always does when people give of themselves in service to others. Please pray that the seeds of faith sown in the hearts of these young people this week will flourish and bear much fruit. ##### Belief is our work (John 6:29). Prayer is our medium (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Christ is our life (Colossians 3:4). May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you this week for your prayers for us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun May 9 14:56:09 2004
I wonder which Person of the Trinity came up with flowers, back in the early days of creation (Genesis 1:26, Proverbs 8:22-31). I think it must have been the Son: “Dad, look what I made!” waving a peony. “Ugh, what has He gotten into now?” The Father, having already existed from everlasting to everlasting, was probably thinking of decorating His creation in soft, restful shades of green, with the occasional burning bush thrown in for contrast, but the Son has always had a flair for the dramatic and the playful (Proverbs 8:30-31) and wanted something that would get people’s attention. You know it wasn’t the Holy Spirit who came up with flowers. If it hadn’t been for omnipresence, He probably wouldn’t even have shown up for half the meetings. The guy is like the wind. He never writes anything down. ##### Please pray for our computer, Mário, who has been very sick, to the point where we have been without email access. Oh, the hardships of modern missionary life!! Please pray too for Debbie, upon whom the entire burden of computer problems falls in this household, and who has already put in countless hours trying to nurse Mário back to health. ##### At Vivarte, we’re working on a project in door sculpture. Doors, as everyone knows, are often used as a metaphor for opportunity. The young artists will shape old doors, using a jigsaw and other tools, into forms related to their hopes and dreams. In most cases the artists themselves will be an integral part of their work: remember the amusement park murals with the hole for your face that you stood behind to have your picture taken so it looked like you were a giraffe or a dinosaur or riding on a dolphin? In the same way, the door sculptures will have holes cut out for the artist’s faces. For example, in Lisbon there’s a distinctive sculpture of Fernando Pessoa, Portugal’s most distinctive writer, sitting at a café table. One of my dreams is to be a writer. I’m planning to carve a beat- up old door into a silhouette of that sculpture, with a hole cut out for my face, so that my sculpture is only complete when I’m in it. Of course, when the collection is touring the United States, after expositions in Lisbon, Madrid and Paris, the artists will mostly need to be in school, so that life-size photographs will have to substitute for their faces most of the time. Please pray for door donations. ##### This week, keep in mind how much your Heavenly Father loves you, how His big heart sings when you turn your face towards His, how He loves to hold up your chin and trace the contours of your face with His finger (Psalm 103:13-14, Luke 15:20). There is healing in His touch.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon May 17 02:34:43 2004
Braga is in an uproar. All week the students at the University of Minho at the bottom of the hill have been celebrating “Enterro da Gata,” or The Burying of the Cat. No one has any idea what this means, other than that it obviously refers to some ancient pagan academic ritual from time out of mind having to do with the end classes and the beginning of exams—which go on longer than the NBA playoffs—and it gives college students an excuse to drink tremendous quantities of beer and dance in the mud until dawn to the accompaniment of live rock ´n roll music. Those of us who are not college students generally spend Enterro da Gata discussing how little sleep we got as a result of the noise. But that is not all. Our little parish of Tenões is celebrating a couple of Saints, Eulália and José. Parish celebrations always seem to include the same combination of Portuguese folk music, announcements and homilies crackling loudly from 9 a.m. to midnight over a public address system that has been in continuous service since World War I, uniformed youth parading through the streets pounding drums and fireworks of the sonic boom variety at all hours. Being a stranger, not really knowing what’s going on, one is reminded of Laura Ingalls Wilder: “That night the noise in the Indian camps was worse than the night before. Again the war-cries were more terrible than the most dreadful nightmare. . . The next night, and the next night, and the next night, were worse and worse. . . “(Little House on the Prairie, pg. 295-6). Thankfully, it appears very unlikely the Portuguese will attack. ##### Austin was missing her mom this week, so Debbie spent the weekend in Lisbon and Drex and Stan and I were here, tracking dirt in the house and playing Risk, the game of World conquest, which has become our game of choice since Drex received it for Christmas. On Thursday, the pastor had a break between meetings around dinner time and stopped by for pizza and a game. We annihilated him. ##### Thank you for praying for door donations (see last week’s update). On Friday I was lead to a large church remodel project where I recovered about 25 doors of all descriptions. They should be enough to get us started with our Vivarte door sculpture project. ##### We had our fortnightly “Amigos do Cristo” meeting at Vivarte this evening. It was humiliating for me, primarily because of my language limitations. I was due to lead tonight’s discussion, about John 13:34-35, but made a muddle of it. A couple other leaders stepped right up, though, and facilitated a lively conversation that at least half a dozen kids took part in, so that things probably went pretty well for the Kingdom of God. Funny how my priorities and God’s sometimes diverge. Please continue to pray that these meetings serve as an encouragement to young people of all denominations in their relationships with Jesus Christ. Pray, too, that more young fellas would join us. So far, it’s been almost all girls. ##### Thank you for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun May 23 15:59:25 2004
One thing northern Portugal has going for it is electrical storms. Sweltering Spanish weather systems dance on our heads for a couple of days, then cool Gaelic systems roll crashing down from the North Sea, scattering the Spaniards like bowling pins. Watching and hearing these cataclysms from below we huddle close together and hope our computer screens don’t explode. ##### “What would you guys like me to include in the Prayer and Praise Update?” I asked this evening at dinner. “People could pray for me!” Drex put in, referring to his plan to give special attention to his conduct at school. Debbie had a conference with his teacher last week that was very positive in every way except with respect to Drex’s tendency to socialize too much. He’s really going to try to do better this week and Debbie’s going to check back with his teacher on Friday. ##### I don’t know how people get along without God. Life looks so overwhelming to me when I allow my attention to shift from Jesus to the wind and waves about me (Matthew 14:30-31). Everything from plumbing leaks to overdue correspondence to routine conversations in foreign languages—not to mention my own real blundering—rise up and threaten to overwhelm me, sucking me down, down, down. How good it is to have a Deliverer (Psalm 56:13). ##### Thank you for praying for us and loving us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon May 31 01:59:04 2004
I’ve done a lot of gross things in my life—mostly connected with plumbing—but today was the grossest. ##### I had a lot of hilarious new material planned for you today but it’ll all have to wait until I can get the pump that serves the new bathroom at Casa Joaquina back in its hole and working again. Please pray that happens tomorrow, without much mess. ###### Thanks for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon May 31 05:50:12 2004
Oh, and Drex's teacher said she could really tell he was trying to do better this week. Thanks for praying. ##### P.S. Regarding the pump, yesterday, I explained to Drex, "There are at least two good things about this situation: 1) It happened while we were here, rather than guests, and 2) It is very unlikely that the situation will get any worse." Today, it got worse, but we're still very thankful for #1.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Jun 14 07:18:48 2004
Sunday. Portugal might have been the happiest place on earth today except that despite years of preparation for yesterday’s contest between former naval powers, Portugal and Greece, that opened Euro 2004, the European soccer championship which will be held over the next three weeks in ten brand new stadiums built here specifically for the occasion, Greece failed to play its assigned role, which was to include an heroic performance reminiscent of that nation’s storied antiquity in a exhilerating struggle that would include a half-time reenactment of the battle of Troy featuring Brad Pitt showing his breastplate and ending with a narrow victory for the home team. Instead, they burst upon the field as from a wooden horse and sent the locals to the exits with nothing to discuss in the conjested traffic that awaited them except how to redeploy the roughly 5% of the national workforce that has spent the last four years building stadiums. Please pray for a successful redeployment and for safety from terrorists and hooligans (the official name for British soccer rowdies, who last night gas-bombed a bus of folkloric dancers just a few blocks from Casa Joaquina) during the championship. ##### Shortly after our family arrived in Portugal in the summer of 2000, as I walked one morning in a hamlet not far from Lisbon, feeling disoriented and far from home, I came upon an elderly woman walking in the opposite direction. Owing to the narrowness of the sidewalk, we had to adjust our courses slightly in order to avoid a collision. Midway through the maneuver, when we were out of danger, we looked at one another and she gave me a little smile that said, “There now, we’ve done it. You’ll be O.K.” I drew great comfort from that smile. The transfer of power was as tangible as the turning on of a light. During His life on earth, Jesus knew when power had gone out from Him (Mark 5:30). Often, we do, too. When you hug a friend in order to comfort or encourage them, you know power has gone out from you. You feel it. This sort of power transfer is a big part of the life of faith. What is prayer but a transfer of the power of God from one person to another? I’ve been focusing on receiving power from God, allowing Him to “smile” upon me through His Holy Spirit and through all He’s made, and then focusing on passing that power along to others through prayers of faith. ##### Please pray for Drex’s health, as he has had a rather typical assortment of infirmities lately, including fevers, sore throats, and itchy red spots all over his upper half. His spirits remain very buoyant, thanks be to God, and he is really into the European Soccer Championship. ##### You are very gracious to pray for us. May God bless you for your love and care.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jun 20 15:23:37 2004
Well, my career as a writer is officially under way. I’ve been unable to arrange actual employment, so we’ve set me up in a room with a view, a room of one’s own, where I will pray over the computer from 9 to noon each day, asking God to make something come out of it that someone will buy. I’ll scrounge work wherever I can find it, scanning the internet for possible outlets for my unique slant on life, combining a lack of both qualification and inhibition, hoping to add publication and a little money to my incentives for becoming a writer. It’s difficult to imagine a more ideal setting. I’m looking out from the second story of our house north and a little west over our steep cobbled street towards the green hills and white houses of northern Portugal. Later, the sun will set behind the trees to my left and vermillionate the sky. When we were on the west coast of Ireland in 1992 I saw a stone cottage with a thatched roof looking out over the rugged cliffs and surf and imagined it would be an ideal place to write. But it’s just as rocky here, red terra-cotta tile is just as literary as thatch, a warm breeze rather than a frigid north Atlantic wind is rustling the leaves of my dictionary, and I’m 25% Portuguese, giving me a connection to this place that can only serve to profundar—make deeper, more profound, more sophisticated—my writing. Plus, with this great big window right in front of me I can just throw my boogers directly out onto the front lawn. ##### One very good thing that having two kids with Behcet’s Disease is teaching me is to be more thankful for present and past blessings. We persons of northern European extraction have such a powerful inclination towards thinking about the future. It has been a big factor in our success. When it comes to our relationship with God, though, this orientation towards the future can be dysfunctional. If this were a marriage, where one partner had shown himself faithful time after time, never failing to live up to his promises and do what he said he was going to do, and yet his spouse still worried that at any moment he might abandon her and leave her destitute, we might say she was paranoid. We ought to be content. The future is as certain as God can make it, given the fact that it’s the future, and therefore full of surprises. But how often I’ve allowed thoughts of the future to put out of mind what God has done for me and is doing for me right now. What our children’s Behcet’s Disease has done is make the future so completely uncertain that thinking a lot about it would drive me insane. I have no choice but to focus hard on enjoying the present and on God’s faithfulness to us in the past. Now, when Drex begs me to read to him and snuggles into the space beneath my arm with his head on my chest and wriggles with delight at the sensual feast of being loved and close and enjoying good stories together, I lock on like nothing else matters and praise God for His tender care. When I see Austin and we exchange little Portuguese kisses and I give her a great big ocean of a hug, pouring life and power into her, and then later the whole family sits around the dinner table together and basks in one another’s weirdnesses and the unliklihood that four such ridiculous people would be able to get along at all, I allow the grace and goodness of God to radiate about me like heat from an oven and I think if God were to annihilate us all tomorrow I’d have nothing to complain about. ##### Please pray for the Californians staying at Casa Joaquina right now, that they would have the time of their lives. They came to see soccer, the European Championship, and the TV suddenly stopped working, (suspects include the two two-year-olds who stayed at Casa Jo last week) so they’ve had to watch games at a café until we can get a repairperson out. Worse, their tickets to tomorrow’s game have gotten messed up in the mail. Please pray they get them. While you’re praying for renters, would you mind asking God to give us lots more? Thanks. ##### The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Tue Jun 22 02:40:38 2004
The Californians got their tickets yesterday afternoon in plenty of time for last night's game, thanks be to God and thanks for praying.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Jun 28 06:57:21 2004
Soccer is not nearly as popular in Europe as people suppose. Only about 20% of the population are fans. It’s just that soccer attracts the largest people so that those fans make up 80% of the population’s total mass, make 80% of the noise, and drink almost all the beer. For example, on Wednesday evening—which happened to be the Festival of Saint John the Baptist here in Braga, that gala you may remember reading about here during which people go around hitting each other on the head with plastic squeaky hammers—fans of the Dutch soccer team poured into the center of town fresh from their team’s victory over Latvia in Braga’s new stadium which was built specifically for them and the eleven Latvian fans who were able to afford the trip. Most people who were there will tell you that the central plaza was full of Dutch soccer fans. In a sense, this was true. What many people failed to realize, however, was that there were only five guys. It’s just that they were orange, very excited, and the smallest among them—a young fellow named Weinig, which means “little” in Dutch—was 6’9” and weighed 298 lbs. When the central plaza is similarly full of Portuguese there are approximately 2400 people present. Ordinarily, there is only one guy in Braga who weighs more than I do. (Whenever we meet we exchange information about where we’ve found clothes.) Wednesday was the first time since my arrival three years ago that I have felt totally inconspicuous. ##### But things change when your country’s team makes the semi-finals of the European championship, as the Portuguese national team did Thursday by beating England in a double-overtime-penalty-kick-sudden-death-by-cardiac-arrest victory in Lisbon. Now, even the little people are involved. Lucas and Rebecca Pego, 5 and 3 years old, respectively, and friends of ours from church, were painted red and green by their parents—who are ordinarily very responsible persons—and driven around town dangling from the windows of the family car after the victory around midnight. Undoubtedly, their preschool classmates received similar treatment from their parents. Most houses, including ours, and many cars and construction cranes, are festooned with the Portuguese flag. Camera personnel on TV channels not televising the games make funny faces on screen or talk to their kids at home, knowing no one else is watching. Europe holds elections for a new parliament to rule over a new, bigger European Union and less than half the voters show up. Those problems aside, however, the championship seems to have run fairly smoothly, thanks be to God. ##### Just to clarify my work situation after last week’s exciting revelation regarding the official opening of the writing phase of my career: I will continue to work twenty hours a week at Vivarte, mostly from 2-6 in the afternoon. That God has put me in a situation where I appear to have no other paying alternative to writing—because of work visa limitations and bureaucratic obstacles to residency—feels like a luxury and a blessing, but I would be happy to do whatever work He’d like me to do to make up the shortfall in our monthly budget. Please ask Him to tell me what that is, if it isn’t writing. Keeping Vivarte within its allotted time will be possible in part thanks to the recent arrival of two new colleagues, a Brazilian psychologist named Cassiana, and her Portuguese assistant, Debora, who will very capably assume many of the administrative tasks that I have been doing with considerable difficulty, owing largely to time and language limitations. Their presence will allow me to concentrate my energy more on what I enjoy, which is the children. They will also provide Vivarte children and their families with support on various other levels. Please pray for Cassiana and Debora, and for the work of Vivarte, that it prospers and blesses everyone involved. ##### Thank you very much for your prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Jul 12 05:55:24 2004
Maybe it was the Portuguese loss to Greece in the final of the European soccer championship last Sunday. Maybe it was missing my train back to Braga from Lisbon Monday morning so that I arrived late for work and missed a meeting. Maybe it was something I ate. Or maybe God allows me to wander from Him at times, the way we used to let Austin wander from us, when she was a toddler, down the corridors of the SeaTac airport while we awaited arrivals, just to see how far she would go. (She’d go a long way.) Whatever it was that put me off my game at the beginning of last week and caused me to take my eyes off of Jesus, I sank lower and lower as the week progressed, frustrated with work, with colleagues and with the Portuguese language, until by Friday afternoon I was barely functioning and just managed to drag my sorry self to Vivarte. My heart had turned to wax. I trembled at the prospect of spending the afternoon working with young people in Portuguese. I wanted to hide. It was as if there were five thousand hungry men and their families to feed and I spent the week becoming more and more obsessed with the fact that all I bring to the table is five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:9). The embarrassing thing for me is how little it takes to overwhelm me. What I face isn’t a tired, hungry crowd of five thousand for dinner, it’s more like a half dozen kids who’d like juice. One of the things that depressed me last week was reading about one of my friends and heroes, Bob Muzikowski, who is feeding another couple thousand people every time you turn around: Now, in addition to running his own insurance business, a farm for recovering drug addicts, the largest little league baseball program in Chicago (and writing a book about it--Safe at Home), and raising a quiver-full of children, he and his wife Tina have founded Chicago Hope Academy, which you should read about at www.chicagohopeacademy.com if you have any interest in the future of America’s educational system or its inner cities. “Porque é que não posso fazer coisas dessas?” (“Why can’t I do cool stuff like that?”) I whined. When I did get to Vivarte Friday, I took out the baseball equipment and spent most of the afternoon pitching to kids of all ages who begged for a chance to bat. At some point, the Holy Spirit descended upon me and reminded me that though it is true that my contribution is indeed very, very small, nevertheless, when it is humbly offered, with it Jesus can do beautiful things. ##### Vivarte now operates in two different social housing neighborhoods. One is called “As Andorinhas,” which means The Swallows, and the other is called “As Parretas,” which apparently doesn’t mean anything except “Much Better Behaved Children.” The difference is tied to economics: the families in As Andorinhas are poorer. The neighborhood motto in As Andorinhas is “Partem Tudo!” which means “Break Everything!” They actually have baseball caps that say Partem Tudo. And they really do seem to take tremendous pride in breaking things. You cannot leave art work there unless you want it destroyed. It’s sickening. (In an effort to give you a balanced account, however, I should say that in contrast to what I would expect in similar neighborhoods in America, people in As Andorinhas do not steal. We often find tools and equipment broken, but we almost always find them.) Please pray for the breaking of this prevailing spirit of destruction. We’re promoting a new neighborhood motto: “Fazem Tudo!” Do Everything! Drex does not care a lick about church. At our church, the Sunday School for kids his age, where he might build friendships, happens an hour before the service, and I’ve only managed to get him there once, owing to certain family dynamics that mitigate against it, and he wasn’t impressed. So he’s left with sitting through a long service and sermon, which he also finds unimpressive. We’ve tried a few different strategies for helping him engage, without much success. Would you please pray that Drex would find something good to get excited about at church so that church would be a blessing to him? As always, we are extremely thankful for your prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Jul 25 10:35:08 2004
Debbie and Drex spent the week in Lisbon. I took the train there and back last weekend. I like the train. Travelling through Car Country is essentially the same whether one is driving from Lisbon to Braga or from Chicago to Detroit: pavement stretching as far as one can see, interrupted by truck stops. The train is different. It’s like a holiday at a theme park or museum. The exhibit goes right through people’s back yards, so you see how they really live. You see them hanging their wash, working their gardens, playing their games, loitering, right outside your car. More intimate than that, you go through their garbage, because all the dregs of society get dumped near the tracks. You want to really study a culture, take the train. ##### Thirty-five California teenagers and their leaders are in Lisbon doing Christian service work. One of the leaders asked Austin what she likes about Portugal. Lots of things, she said, but the thing she likes most is that God has made a place for her here, a place to serve, a place to be involved, much more than He ever did in the United States. Last weekend Austin tearfully told her church that she will not be involved in teaching Sunday School beginning in September, because she’ll be dividing her time between her church and Vitor’s. Austin’s church has been such an enormous part and blessing of her life in Portugal that it is very difficult to imagine her without them. Please ask God to bless her decision to limit her time with them. ##### Remember planting those beans in elementary school and watching them sprout? Fantastically they burst, sending down roots, sending up stems and leaves? Remember the thrill of checking on your bean each day to find that it had dramatically changed overnight? I realized a while ago that I need that thrill, continually. I need to be planting seeds, literally, all the time. It creates in me a sense of hope and expectation and wonder. It gets me excited about beautiful things to come. Now I have a couple of ziplock bags with wet paper towel and seeds inside that I check on every day. I have little cups with tiny plants coming up. I built a covered sun box where new plants grow until theyºre ready to be transplanted to their permanent homes. I carry around with me all the time the excitement of knowing that when I check on them again, they will be dramatically different. Then in that spirit of hope and excitement and wonder and beauty, I pray, not for plants but for people. Those are powerful prayers. ##### May the Lord answer all your prayers this week. Thank you very much for the ones for us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Aug 8 18:56:07 2004
Members of our Braga church returned this week from Angola, where they visited the cities of Luanda—the capital—and Huambo, in the center of the country. They went to prepare the way for CESTA, our new missions program (see March 29, above). Their descriptions are difficult to imagine: mountains of garbage everywhere, children playing barefoot in raw sewage running in the streets, theft so widespread one must take care not to loose the glasses off one’s face. With no plumbing, the hospital in Huambo smells like a sewer. There are no sheets. There’s blood all over the place and three people in each bed, except in the maternity ward, where there are six—three women and their babies. It’s tempting to be overwhelmed, listening to their stories. Is it imaginable that God would use us to meet some of the needs? I dropped out of the CESTA planning a couple of months ago at least until I get my work situation in order, but I would still very much like to be involved. Please ask God to bless CESTA and to direct me. ##### I returned home yesterday evening from a week at the Word of Life camp near Lisbon, where I accompanied fifteen teenagers from As Andorinhas, one of the neighborhoods where Vivarte operates. Word of Life uses all kinds of activities, from conventional sports to crazy pool contests to a high ropes course, to get people’s attention and share the Gospel. So the kids heard plenty about God. It was a good opportunity, too, for me to build my relationships with them in a setting very different from Vivarte. I am hopeful that some of the spiritual seeds that were sown this week will bear fruit. Please pray especially for fifteen-year-old Filipe, who seems to be on the verge of accepting Jesus. Pray also that I can be of some help to the Word of Life Camp in resolving their wastewater disposal problems. Ron Tracy, the self-described “crazy plumber from Oklahoma” you may remember reading about here in years past, who is also a sanitation guy, has recently returned from work in Luanda, Angola, himself, and has agreed to come out to Word of Life to take a look. ##### Austin and Vitor and a chaperone have gone to Paris for a few days. Please pray they have a safe and lovely time. Austin is planning to come to Braga next weekend to look after her brother so that Debbie and I can celebrate our twenty-second wedding anniversary at Casa Joaquina in Lisbon. There was a time in our marriage when Debbie and I would get away for an “Annual Planning Retreat,” which served as an important centerpiece to our year, but that was before the century. We’re looking forward to the revival of the old custom. Along with talking and praying about everything under the sun we hope to spend lots of time in museums and other places Drex couldn’t care less about. ##### Thank you for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Wed Aug 18 08:37:20 2004
Please pray for Debbie and me as we wrap up our little planning retreat here in Lisbon. What a blessing it has been to get away together to talk and pray and praise the Lord for all He has done for us! ##### We spent the day yesterday with Elizabeth and Armando Azevedo, who you may remember reading about here before, talking and praying about Na Crista da Onda, In the Crest of the Wave, their ministry to at-risk youth in Lisbon, with which we are involved. Please pray for them and Na Crista da Onda, that God will give them all they need and be glorified in their work and in the lives of the young people they touch. I'm planning to go surfing tomorrow morning with another member of the Crista da Onda board of directors, a young guy named Zaca. It turns out Portugal is a destination spot for European surfers. Just one more great reason for you to visit. ##### Austin and Drex are due to arrive by train from Braga this evening so that we can goof off a bit more here as a family. Drex and I may sneak off to camp in Spain. ##### Thank you very much for your prayers. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Tue Aug 31 10:09:08 2004
Back in the mid 80’s, when Austin was little, Wayne Watson sang a smarmy song for dads called "Somewhere in the World", about praying for his young son’s future wife. I’ve always been a smarmy dad, so I sang along, tweaking the lyrics to allow for the fact that I was praying for the protection and spiritual prosperity of some little boy, rather than some little girl, like Wayne. Turns out the kid I was praying for was a teenager at the time, but God does not seem to have been thrown off by that. Last week Vitor Mota, a 32 year-old Portuguese junior high science and math teacher and Bible school exegetics professor asked for our blessing upon his marriage to Austin, which we cheerfully gave. He had proposed to Austin a week earlier overlooking Paris from the Eiffel tower. Only one thing I had asked of the Lord respecting a husband for Austin, if He were pleased to provide one, that he would be a man after God’s own heart. Vitor is. He also appears to be a match for Austin in a lot of other ways that make us all very excited to see what God has in store for them. On the other hand, with their age difference, their cultural differences and Austin’s Behçet’s Disease, Vitor and Austin are taking on a lot. Even as we ask God to make these things of no account we delight that they make it unlikely that Vitor and Austin will forget their desperate need for Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). ##### In light of the engagement, returning to America suddenly becomes difficult to imagine. We’ve known from the beginning that our children were becoming more and more Portuguese every day. I feel like one of the potted plants adorning the rooftop terrace at Casa Joaquina in Lisbon. I’m happy to be in Portugal, but it has always been easy to imagine moving me back to America, where I might be just as fruitful. But the children are wild things, uncontained, reckless, sending out roots wherever they can get a hold and a drop of water to slake their thirst to be connected. They’re digging in. And now Austin is being grafted into a native Portuguese plant. Deep roots make richer, more varied fruit. A potted plant enjoys the advantage of mobility, but he does well to not go too far from the people who water him. ##### From what we can gather so far, weddings are even more integral to family and community life in Portugal, where things are still traditional in many ways, than they are in America. From the initial planning until the last sardine is swallowed, they serve as a focal point for people to affirm and reaffirm their connections with one another. Austin and Debbie have connected, and are off and running, making plans. They hope to spend the day on the internet narrowing down possible venues so they can begin visiting later this week. Neither Austin’s nor Vitor’s church is well suited for a wedding, being of the store-front and rented-school varieties, respectively, so they’re looking for neutral territory. Along with hoping to gracefully attend to an array of intercultural imperatives, the goal of the planning is to remain calm so that Austin does not get run down and remains well. Please ask God to make it so. ##### Thank you for loving us and for praying loving us, even as our family changes shape. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Sep 26 16:42:23 2004
I wonder if other people observe their own descent into senility as clearly as I am seeing mine. I watch myself getting weirder, my behavior becoming crazier and more exaggerated all the time. For example, earlier this year Debbie and I were shopping for clothes when I saw an employee fold a shirt. You know the way they do it, the shirt’s arms folded neatly behind, collar front and center, chest out. Until that moment I had always thought folding shirts that way was the exclusive purview of clothing professionals, beyond the ken of ordinary shoppers like me. But it struck me that like so many other things in life, with practice, I could learn even this. Then the shelves bearing my shirts at home would be like the store, with the shirts looking smart and crisp. Sure enough, when I got home, I found I could make a passable job of it. At first I did it because it made choosing a shirt seem just a little special, almost as if I were choosing the shirts for the first time. But now I’ve come to understand what the clothing stores must have understood all along: shirt body language. When the shirts are arrayed on the shelf, folded at attention, looking straight at you, rather than furtively out of the corner of a collar button, they convey an earnestness and frankness that are compelling. They are like eager young recruits poised for action, anxious for you to give them a try. The good news in this, I suppose, along with the possibility of my moonlighting in retail, is that as I get older and my shirts more fully develop personalities of their own, I won’t need to worry about being lonely. ##### Most mornings now, as I begin my ascent of Bom Jesus, the monument with 1000 steps in the shadow of which we live, António, fifty-three, tall for a Portuguese man, with a full round face, thick mustache and troubled expression that make him look like a river boat captain run aground, emerges from his house and merges his course with mine. We walk and talk, often about things we’ve discussed before. António repeats himself a lot. Two years ago he fell four stories from a roof where he was working, suffering head and other injuries. Now he punctuates television with climbing Bom Jesus—often five times a day—at the top of which he and his wife were married 29 years ago last month. He is always sad, he says, because he cannot work and his wife has to clean houses to support them. Being with António, and with a couple of other men with whom I’ve been spending time, reminds me of mending sails. The object of the Christian life, like the object of sailing, is to be animated by the Pneuma, which is Greek for both Holy Spirit and wind. The problem with many of us is that, for all sorts of reasons, our sails are in tatters. They hardly catch the wind at all. Mending them means patching them with the truth, that God loves us and wants to fill our lives with blessings, though the blessings may be very different than the ones we had anticipated. Please pray that God would use me to help get António, and Arlindo, and Paulo, back on course. ##### Drex and I have been reading James Herriot. First we read his collection of Cat Stories, mostly while camping in the backyard, with Drex’s stray kitten Telha -- meaning “Roof Tile” in Portuguese, a name she received because we found her on the roof -- frolicking in and out and over the top of the tent. Drex’s enchantment with Telha had a lot to do with his willingness to overlook James Herriot’s long colorful descriptions of the English countryside. We recently finished All Creatures Great and Small and now we’re on to All Things Bright and Beautiful. Now it’s Drex’s love for animals in general that sustains him, along with the cute anecdotes about James Herriot’s courtship and marriage, which make Drex blush. Having never read the books when they were published during my youth, I find the writing inspiring. I’d like to write with some of the same humor and tenderness and grace. It’s also encouraging that Dr. Herriot seems to have spent a lot of time lying in the grass in the sun. ##### In keeping with the animal theme, Drex spent his birthday money and some other savings on a fish tank, which he set to percolating in his room this weekend. Now he must wait a while to allow it to become soup before putting in fish. He says he has never been so excited about anything in his life. He hasn’t begun school yet because like a lot of school districts in Portugal, his neglected to make arrangements for teachers this fall. One of the strongest and in some ways most charming elements of the Portuguese character is the conviction that things will work themselves out. It makes the Portuguese very pleasant company, but it doesn’t make for a lot of planning ahead. Sometimes it seems to the foreigner that when the Portuguese say, “things always work themselves out” what they mean is “we’re not dead yet,” but then the foreigner probably still has a lot to learn about relaxing. Pray that we all learn from our experience. ##### Thank you for praying for us. Please forgive me for being away so long, especially without a good excuse. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Oct 3 15:41:08 2004
The Portuguese public schools are still in disarray. Please pray they’re able to pull things together this week. Monday and Tuesday are holidays, celebrating the deposition of Portugal’s last king, Manuel II, who fled to England in 1910. The current Education Minister, Maria do Carma Seabra, may also need to flee. We had thought Drex’s situation was secure, since the teacher that has taught his class the last three years and was due to move up and teach them again this year has tenure, but she’s been assigned to another school. This appears to have to been a mistake and lawyers are hopeful they can have her reassigned to her former class by Christmas. ##### Thank you for praying about Drex getting interested and connected at church. I have begun helping with his Sunday school class, and he and I plan the games together. Today he said regarding Sunday school, “Actually, it was fun.” Afterwards, rather than sitting with Debbie and me during the service, he sat with a couple of friends from the class. After the service, those friends spent the afternoon at our house. May the Lord continue to draw Drex into the Body of Christ, the church. ##### The Seattle Soup Group that gathered at our home each Sunday afternoon for several years during the 90’s may finally have had Portuguese offspring. The Braga Burger Bunch met here Friday evening for the first time, a group consisting of five Americans from three families, a Brazilian, and three Angolans. We’ve got our eye on a family of four Romanians, but we’ll need to get more chairs and switch to paper plates if they agree to come. We’ve just never found a better way to love and care for people than having them into our home. I’m hoping to keep doing it the first Friday of every month until I die. Please pray people are blessed. ##### Thank you for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Oct 10 14:55:11 2004
Austin and Vitor borrowed a drill this week to hang pictures in Vitor’s apartment. (Walls are concrete here, so you often need a drill if you want a hole.) Giving them my extra reminded me of the tools I’ve received, especially early in my marriage, from my grandfather, father, father-in-law and brother-in-law. Along with making me realize I can now justify the purchase of almost any new tool as long as I give the old one to Vitor, it made me feel part of a richly symbolic timeless male dance, the circle of power tools, one generation bequeathing upon the next the capacity to make a serious mess. ##### Debbie spent the week in Lisbon, first with her former Seattle colleague and dear friend Julie Chelin and Julie’s husband Pat, who made Portugal the last stop on their European tour, then getting Casa Joaquina ready for renters who arrive tomorrow. Pray she is not devastated when she returns from the mild southern climate to the freezing torrential rain of Braga. ##### I don’t feel any taller, but when I play goalie so Drex can practice soccer the ground sure looks far away. In fact, the ants look like little people seen from an airplane: I can make them out clearly, but I can’t get at them. Bending down to block a low shot seems to take as much energy as it used to take to run a mile, and then I still have to come back up. I used to have to invent ways to burn extra energy. Nowadays, it’s often only my sense of obligation coming from memories of countless hours my dad played catch with me that enables me to drag my sorry behind out to the field with Drex. Pray he ends up with the same treasure. ##### Thanks for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Oct 18 02:23:18 2004
“Good morning, Heavenly Father. How are You?” “I’m well. I’m always well. I never change. That’s why I like keeping you guys around.”##### October means chestnuts are roasting in Portugal. Dark leathery ageless women bundled in layers of black wool sit fanning their embers on every cobbled sidewalk. For a euro and a half they’ll roll a piece of newspaper into a cone and drop in a dúzia, a dozen. We learned we can save our money and pick ours off the cobbles under the tree up the hill and roast them on the grill. While Debbie and Drex were engaged in the gathering end of this enterprise this week, one of those ageless Portuguese woman took pity on them and showed them how to knock ‘em out of the tree with stones. By the time she finished her demonstration and dumped what she’d collected into Drex’s arms, he had all they could carry. It reminded me of the delicious strolls Austin and I used to take around our neighborhood in Texas in 1986, chatting with neighbors and eating the pecans that had fallen from the trees. ##### One happy consequence of having lived three years in Portugal is that I have finally reached the point where I can spell the word “bureaucracy” without looking it up. ##### I’ve decided to start a think tank. I’m hoping it will lend credibility to my writing. Writing that comes from a think tank’s gotta be good, don’t you think? I’ve always wanted to be part of a think tank. Imagine, getting paid for swimming around thinking all day with a bunch of smart guys, with tourists coming and watching you from those underwater windows as if you were Willy the orca whale. It’d be great! But I haven’t heard from any think tanks asking me to join and frankly, I’m tired of waiting. I’m calling my think tank the Kleber Institute for Theological Empiricism, or KITE. Our logo, of course, is a kite, colored orange with white stripes, to look like Nemo, who we hope will come speak—and swim, naturally—at our grand opening. Our motto is “It’s cute, but will it fly.” My think tank isn’t going to be one of those snooty exclusive ones, though. If you’d like to join, just send your address along with your first monthly payment—all the details will be spelled out clearly on the website—and we’ll send you the Nemo swimming trunks and the pocket kite. Then, whenever you’re in town, just stop by for a contemplative dip. ##### “Everyone lies.” It’s a lie with the appearance of truth Drex picked up at school. He used it unsuccessfully this week as a defense in the case, Drex v. Mom and Dad. Sometimes when confronted with things he’s said he wishes so much he hadn’t that before he can wrap his mind around the distinction between reality and wishful thinking his mouth has denied the truth. Please pray that his mind would form the distinction a little quicker and his mouth would form the denial a little slower. He’s also been seated next to a problematic classmate at school. Please pray for grace and nonviolence between them. ##### Thank you for loving us and praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Oct 24 23:51:16 2004
Drex was elected to his first public office this week, class delegate. At the beginning of the day Monday he went from one classmate to another requesting votes. Seven agreed. The position carries a variety of responsibilities, the most pivotal being the recording of miscreant’s names when the teacher is called from the room. In this class, which has been together since the 1st grade, the Dames have been in power for a long time, so that only Gents have been showing up on the black list. Drex’s election represents a changing of the guard and a shift to the left. Please pray that he discharges his duties with integrity and grace. ##### We had dinner Saturday evening at the home of Zé Manuel, one of the classmates who had promised his vote to someone else. One of the interesting elements of the evening was getting there, which wasn’t simple. Drex and Debbie had been there once when they gave Zé a lift home. One example of the gender confusion that characterizes our marriage is that while I am a person of modest navigational ability, in twenty-two years of marriage I have never known Debbie to be unable to find a place she’s been once and she rarely has difficulty finding places she’s never been, even if they’re on a new continent. In that respect last evening wasn’t unusual. What was interesting was that Drex, who has inherited the full measure of his mother’s tracking skill, was directing from the back seat. It was like running with a couple of talking blood hounds: “I remember that!” and “Remember you said this here,” and “Oh yeah, I feel good about this!” They got more and more agitated as they narrowed in. One sensed the importance of avoiding behavior that might cause one to be mistaken for prey. The hunt was rewarded. Dinner was as delicious as any I’ve found in a restaurant and Zé’s little family as delightful as any you’ll find anywhere. His five-year-old sister, Marta, has set her stunning azure eyes and intense charm upon Drex. She, too, appears to be a gal who gets what she’s after. Now, if her mom teaches her to cook . . . ##### Drex is playing in the most non-competitive soccer league on earth. Zé Manuel convinced him to play. For a modest registration fee, the kids, aged 4-12, all get the same uniform and membership card. The coaches divide up the field and the kids into several games and turn ‘em loose. It’s just a little more organized than recess. It’s perfect for Drex, who is of modest ability, and whose Suspected Behçet’s—I don’t say Official Behçet’s because he hasn’t received a diagnosis—limits his energy. Watching him play I reflect on the place of sports in life. My own athletic career spanned twelve years or so, from the late 60’s to the late 70’s, and boils down to half a dozen moments of triumph and about as many moments of ignominy all floating in a bouillabaisse of belonging. Both the triumphs and the ignominies remain as vivid memories, but it was the belonging that mattered. I defined myself by it. In other words, I turned it into an idol, and looked to it for life. It’s a mistake Drex seems unlikely to duplicate. He’s likely to realize sooner than I did that sports will not be his life. That’d be a blessing. ##### Thanks for loving us and praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Nov 1 00:37:05 2004
Please pray for a young guy named Gonçalvo, an architecture student in Lisbon. A friend named Zaca (rhymes with SOCK-a) and I shared the gospel with Gonçalvo yesterday. He is “searching” spiritually, in part because he is going through a difficult time. I think he went with Zaca to church this morning. Please for Gonçalvo’s salvation and that God would comfort him in his distress. ##### Walking early in Lisbon this time of year, soft pink light washes the wet puddled cobbles, reflecting the blue and cream of the sky and combining with the possibilities of morning to create a delicious effect, like a sweet breakfast pastry. One must carry an umbrella against the squalls, which come up quickly. I swing it experimentally, as if readying in the on deck circle for the day to begin. Anything might happen. The Red Sox might win the World Series. But America is clearly no longer the World. Massachusetts could be on a hot streak. What might that mean to the world? Pray for America. ##### Thank you for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Nov 14 23:52:27 2004
Drying clothes in northern Portugal is like working for peace in Israel. There’s a sense of hopelessness. A sense that time, the solution to so many problems, is not likely to make things better, and may make them a lot worse. Granted, having to dress in damp jeans is a mild form of violence, but the air is nevertheless heavy with dread. This is true even though we’ve been enjoying the Summer of Saint Martin, beautiful autumn weather that’s supposed to come every year around November 11, the Day of Saint Martin, as a blessing from God because around the middle of the 4th century Martin gave half his cloak to a nearly naked beggar in a thunderstorm. His companions laughed, but the rain stopped, and has been stopping most early Novembers since. The Portuguese celebrate by roasting chestnuts, tasting the year’s new wine and standing in the sun with their legs spread out a bit so their jeans finish drying. ##### I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but when it comes to selecting in-laws, I’ve always had the Midas touch. The problem with many families is that they’re not operated upon sound business principles. In building a family, as in building a business, I recommend choosing in-laws that compensate for your weaknesses. The first step, obviously, is choosing a spouse. I married Debbie because whereas I could hardly spell differential, she did differential equations for fun. Perfect fit. Here’s just a sampling of the in-laws that came with her: a father-in-law who taught me plumbing, wiring and theology; a mother-in-law who’s taught me a thousand things and more about the Spirit of Christ than anyone; a brother-in-law who taught me building, the relative value of actions versus words and manfully tried to help me catch fish; a sister-in-law who can cook the oven mitts off Betty Crocker. I’ll stop. I don’t want to boast. Choosing in-laws like these just makes good business sense. Now I’ve done it again: in selecting Vitor Mota as my son-in-law I’ve selected someone who teaches things—physics, chemistry, hermeneutics, exegetics—I might not recognize if they were floating in my soup. The only thing I know about hermeneutics is it’s a good way to seal your preserves. He’s got a library full of this stuff. When we had dinner at his apartment recently he loaned me books by a couple of my favorite guys, John Stott and Watchman Nee, in Portuguese. A nice beginning. Oh, and when I return the books, I'll talk with him about scheduling my guitar lessons, which is another thing. When Drex asks probing kid questions now, we no longer say, “We’ll find out on the internet.” We say, “We’ll ask Vitor.” This can only help business. ##### God’s response to the first prayer request ever posted on this website was Alexandre: exactly Drex’s age, smiling and hanging out his apartment window three and a half years ago when we arrived to live next door. He was still smiling yesterday when he spent the day at our house, but his mom explained that his father’s tractor maintenance business has failed and the family is losing their apartment. They’ll be moving soon. Would you please pray for Alexandre’s family, which also includes two older brothers, that God would rescue them from their financial crisis and use it to draw them to Himself? ##### Debbie and I are planning to attend a couples retreat next weekend. Please pray the retreat provides me with lots of witty, insightful, romantic anecdotes to include in future Prayer and Praise Updates, and pray that Austin and Drex have a nice time together here at our house. ##### Thank you for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Nov 22 04:57:39 2004
Thanks for praying for our marriage retreat this weekend. We enjoyed it. As usual with these things, the best part was being together. When we arrived at the retreat venue Friday evening we were surprised to find the presenters would be speaking Spanish. I was surprised again to find they were no more difficult to understand than some Brazilian and northern Portuguese accents with which I contend regularly. I may even have been better off than some of the Portuguese people present because making my way in a linguistic mist is so much a part of my daily life. So, just like that, I’m on my way to speaking Spanish. Interestingly, the presenters did not understand Portuguese, perhaps because in Spain they get so little practice with linguistic mist. Subtitles are illegal there. All foreign media must be voiced-over in Spanish. So the Spanish do not get exposed to the language jungle one finds in Portugal. When I tried to have a conversation with one of the presenters about our family’s trip to his city, Seville, I tried to use words he would recognize, but his eyes glazed over, his flight response kicked in—I know exactly how he felt—and he was gone. Just a few minutes later I had a conversation with a Portuguese guy in which I know I expressed things poorly, but he never flinched. The Portuguese are accustomed to hanging on to conversations by a thread. They enjoy feeling superior in multilingualism to the Spanish, who enjoy feeling superior to the Portuguese in everything else. This is one reason the Portuguese are happy to have José Manuel Durão Barroso, the former prime minister, serving as president of the European Commission, where he can be heard speaking fluently in any one of several languages. ##### Would you please pray for my relationship with Drex? I’m afraid it has taken on a negative tone. It seems like too high a percentage of our time together is spent with me either hustling him off to school or hustling him off to bed. I think it’s Gary Smalley who says that a seven to one ratio between positive and negative comments in any relationship makes a nice balance. I’m afraid my ratio with Drex is quite a bit lower than that. ##### I’m planning to take a van load of Vivarte teenagers to a Word of Life afternoon of activities next Saturday, the 27th. There will be food and fun and games and discussion of spiritual things. Please ask God to open the kid’s ears and hearts to receive His truth and ask Him to give me opportunities to encourage them in their faith. ##### Because neither Debbie nor I is completely at home in the kitchen, our Portuguese Thanksgivings have always involved eating out. Because we spent our restaurant budget at the retreat this weekend we will probably just buy an extra grilled chicken from the supermarket Thursday so we can eat all we want. Maybe I’ll make the apple pie I’ve been craving for about a year. Then we will thank God we have friends and family like you, whom we love enough to really miss. Maybe we’ll play Cluedo or Risco. But not for long. Friday’s a school day. ##### Blessed Thanksgiving. Bon appétit. Thanks for praying for us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Nov 29 04:11:57 2004
Yesterday was a special Missions Day at church. People spoke about the different ministries in which they are involved. I spoke about Vivarte. This is what I said, translated from the Portuguese: ##### I have a friend who grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family. His father was an alcoholic, and the family had a lot of other problems to go along with that one. Today this friend is a fruitful servant of the Lord. He says the one thing that sustained him during his childhood and youth, the one ray of light in an otherwise dark place, the one sanity in the midst of insanity, was the music of Beethoven. It was the only thing that made him feel connected to his world; the only thing that made him think that maybe he had not been born on the wrong planet. ##### Art connects us. To make art, to be creative, is to manifest the image of God in which we were created. It is to imitate our Heavenly Father, the Creator of all things. Imitating our Father is a potent way to connect with our Father. At Vivarte we use the arts—music, dance, theatre, painting, sculpture, photography—to connect with at-risk young people and hopefully, to connect them with their Heavenly Father. ##### Vivarte is like a garden planted in difficult soil. The difficult soil is two housing projects in Braga, as Andorinhas and as Parretas, where many families and many young people lead difficult lives, facing more than the usual array of problems. Those of us who serve there are gardening assistants. Jesus is the Master Gardener. Children are growing and bearing fruit. A five-year- old named Carlos made this Dragon, with the help of his four-year-old brother Miguel. Carlos, Miguel, and their three-year-old sister Caterina all have different fathers. When we first met him Carlos was a violent little boy. But he is a great artist. He becomes completely absorbed in his art. He becomes quiet. When I hold him he likes to rub my beard, the way I used to rub my father’s beard. Carlos is not as violent as he used to be. ##### We gardening assistants at Vivarte move through the garden, from one thing to another, encouraging, cultivating, praying. [Speaking to the church, I did not take time to describe how encouraged I have been that God is indeed working in the lives of kids through our little ministrations. As I get older, I am more and more impressed with the way God uses the smallest things—touches, smiles, words of encouragement—to effect transformations in people’s lives. I know it has been tiny things like these that have made for some of the most memorable moments in my own life. These things are our stock and trade.] Sometimes the activities of the garden and the difficulty of the soil threaten to overwhelm us. We need your prayers to sustain us. Making art, as powerful as it is, will not save nor transform anyone. The only way our work at Vivarte will have a lasting effect, the only way we will succeed in connecting young people with their Heavenly Father, is if God Himself touches their hearts. He will do that if we all pray. ##### Thanks for praying for us. The Lord bless you this week.
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Name: Jord
Date: Mon Nov 29 04:44:37 2004
A friend of mine, call him Fezziwig, wrote this week: “. . . my own career . . . has been an increasingly hard-bitten, satisfaction-free, and desperate one. I have had to move from being a man motivated by the joy and satisfaction of [my craft] for its own sake to being a man desperately trying to provide a decent living for his family on a single income in a double income world without losing all sense of dignity and respect in a risky and profoundly denigrated occupation . . . I hate my job. I've come to hate every waking minute of every working day. My work is an endless Nietzchean misery that I can see now has no ending. My only satisfaction is seeing my family cared for.” Aside from the obvious fact that my friend ought to be supplementing his income by writing, it also seems clear he needs prayer. When I told him I’d printed off his missive to carry as a reminder to pray until God transforms his working life into a glorious outpouring of power and joy in the Holy Spirit or until I die, he said I might go right ahead. Will you please give me a hand? ##### There’s an eight-year-old boy named Hugo in Spain, just north of us, a friend and neighbor of missionaries we know there, who may die of leukemia at any moment. Nevertheless, would join us in praying for his miraculous and complete recovery, in Jesus’ name? ##### Forgive me for piling on this week. Imagine how God feels. Thank you for praying.
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Name: Jord
Date: Sun Dec 12 06:32:48 2004
To celebrate Restoration Day—by which we mean restoration of independence from Spain in 1640—on the 1st, Drex and I made the apple pie I’d been craving and friends brought over lasagna and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” a film they felt was required viewing in preparation for our own international wedding. The pie was delicious and performed its symbolic function beautifully, from the bringing together of generations in its construction to the bringing to mind everything good about home in its destruction at fork point. In the movie, Greek friends of the bride spit on her to keep the devil away as her father escorts her down the aisle. I only hope the Portuguese will mention it before the ceremony if they intend anything of the kind. We had lunch Saturday at the home of Vitor’s parents, in part to discuss the wedding, and they did not volunteer any information about spitting. ##### Wednesday the 8th we were off work and out of school again for “Imaculada Conceição,” or Immaculate Conception. “Conception on the 8th and delivery on the 25th, wow, that is miraculous!” you may be thinking, but then you would be confusing conceptions. It’s the immaculate conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus, sixteen years or so prior to Jesus’ birth and a matter of Catholic tradition, we were celebrating. The Klebers were mostly celebrating the arrival of Debbie’s parents, to officially open our Christmas Season. Austin and her Gramma are spending this week making Austin’s wedding dress, a project they have been discussing for nearly two decades. ##### Hugo, the eight-year-old Spanish boy with leukemia for whom we asked you to pray, died last week. Please pray for his family, especially his parents, who are Christians, that they would be comforted and that God would use their faith in the midst of grief to touch other people’s hearts. ##### Blessed week to you. Thank you for praying for us.
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Name: Jord
Date: Wed Dec 22 09:55:08 2004
Debbie’s sister Cindy arrived Sunday from the Bahamas, where she teaches, completing our Christmas company. If she had swum, rather than following her convoluted itinerary through half a dozen airports, she might have arrived earlier. Each of our first three Christmases in Portugal, 2001- 2003, God generously provided someone from home to help us celebrate. This year, with Debbie’s parents and her sister, we’re really in deep cod. Please pray that our time together is a blessing to hearts who have suffered much from one another’s absence. ##### Speaking of cod, most Portuguese families have some soaking in water right now, re-hydrating, in preparation for Friday’s traditional Christmas eve dinner. Dried, salted cod was the beef jerky of the Portuguese explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries, and since then has held tremendous nostalgic appeal, the way labor holds nostalgic appeal for mothers. Nowadays, with overfishing, the price of bacalhau is such that by having chicken on Friday instead, we will be able to spend the savings on a used Toyota. Please pray that Jacque, our reluctant Peugeot, does not leave us stranded first. ##### Please don’t mistake our not eating cod Christmas Eve for failure to appreciate Portuguese culture. After all, we became residents this week. Thanks to three years of pitched bureaucratic battles fought by Debbie in government offices across the land, we received the Christmas card we had hoped for in the red and green national colors. The most immediate effect of residency is that we are less likely to be deported. It will probably have the longer term benefit of making our tax preparation worthy of a Nobel prize. But residency wasn’t our only bureaucratic triumph this week. It also appears as if we may have completed the required number of wild goose chases to qualify for Portuguese driver’s licenses. Glory be to God! ##### Don’t forget to pause this week in the midst of your business to reflect upon this: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory . . . full of grace and truth,” and this, “His joy was being among people.” Blessed Christmas.
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