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Sunday, January 13, 2008
Brazil is warm. January is the middle of its summer: temperatures are in the upper nineties during the day, and the humidity is just as high. Fortunately, the temperature cools in the evenings, especially during the almost-daily, one-hour rain storms (deluges). But this part of Brazil is beautiful: green, rolling hills with lots of vegetation; prosperous cities which offer much of what we have in America.
Brazil is warm. The people are friendly and affectionate. Someone entering a room personally greets each person individually. People look each other in the eye and listen carefully. Hugging is natural and common. Men often put their arms around each other's shoulders. Children receive attention and love from everybody.
Sunday was especially warm (in the second sense). We attended the Campinas Central Church of the Nazarene, the largest Nazarene congregation worldwide. Each of the 4 Sunday services is packed out. We sat down front and wore headphones with an English translator (a lovely young California woman, wife of one of the pastors, who met her husband at Point Loma). The music was mostly familiar ("It is Well," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," and several choruses) but with Portuguese words. The entire children's department came to the platform for a presentation, and a youth group going on a Work and Witness trip came forward. The pastor prayed for each of these groups. Over 20 men and women receiving local preacher's licenses were brought forward to be introduced and prayed for. One of them is a young dentist, another one a nationally-known radio announcer and former senator.
Pastor Aguilar Valvassaura preached a rich sermon on Jesus changing sinners into fishers of men. Three "S" words make the transformation: salvation, sanctification, and servanthood. Pastor Aguilar is a very loving person. We felt as if he knew us and really cared for us. And the people in the church clearly loved him.
He must also be an amazing organizer and inspirational leader. This church has 8200+ members, offers 4 services each Sunday and a service every night of the week, and 150 small group Bible studies. The church presents concerts in the city park twice a year with 45,000 people attending. Every year or so this church begins a new church, sending off 200 of its members. We were so privileged to worship with them.
Our hosts during these three weeks are a lovely couple from Midwest USA, missionaries Steve and Debbie. They have provided for our every need, and we really enjoy our visits around the table three times a day. Our room and bath are comfortable. Steve is Academic Dean and Religion Department chair of the new Brazil Nazarene University, and Debbie is Work and Witness coordinator and teaches music.
We have begun our work, but will make much more progress this week. Ralph has outlined some components to discuss with the theology people at our meetings Monday and Tuesday. When he understands their goals and purposes, we will begin more serious developing and writing for their new Master in Arts in Religion.
Last and least: our trip was safe but very long. Our delay in Chicago meant that we arrived at 2:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. But we have slept well and are now rested and ready for work.
Blessings on all your homes.
Ralph and Lynn
pictures: top = part of the 3500 people in our service Sunday morning
bottom= the front gate of Brazil Nazarene University