Brazil, Day 16: ALL the Neat Stories!

So, as the title indicates, today I heard a lot of great stories. In order to remember them later on, I’m gonna write them all down.

First of all, my day began with another 6-kilometer run. That’s not much of a story, but it happened. For breakfast we had yummy bread with fried cheese and guava jam again, pineapple, and papaya. We finished by reading a chapter from “The Red Sea Rules,” a devotional book by Robert J. Morgan that the Leonard family reads from time to time during breakfast. It’s a good reminder of the importance of trusting God during hard times.

We also found out this morning that the wife of  one of the married students gave birth to their first child this morning. Little Daniel is the son of the student who teaches the first English class I attended last week. This morning the proud father walked around the to the houses here, showing people pictures of his firstborn.

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard went outside to see the pictures while Jennifer and I finished our breakfast. Jennifer said, “People are always so quick to see a baby and say that it looks like the mom or dad…Dad says that it doesn’t matter as long as the baby is healthy. Actually, I don’t think he’s said that for awhile.” I laughed at what she had to say.

The Leonard’s returned to the table, and the first thing Pastor Jim said was, “I think he looks just like his dad!” Mrs. Leonard said something as I looked over at Jennifer and we tried not to laugh out loud, but we were smiling really big. Then I heard Pastor Jim say, “But it’s okay because he’s healthy!” Hahaha…oh man…SO funny.

Shortly after breakfast, Pastor Jim took me to the seminary next door to show me the Source of Light correspondence school housed in one of the offices. Source of Light is a ministry based in Georgia, and its vision is to reach people with the gospel through Bible-based correspondence studies.

They print Bible studies in many different languages and distribute them to distribution centers in countries around the world. The Portuguese Bible studies are sent to the seminary where they are sent all throughout Brazil.

Here’s how the correspondence school works. Churches and individuals will meet unbelievers and ask them if they would like a short Bible study to do on their own. If accepted, the first Bible study is given, and it begins to expose them to the gospel. After finishing the first Bible study, they take a short quiz and then turn in the Bible study in exchange for the second one.

This process continues until they have completed the first series consisting of seven Bible studies that talk about God, Jesus Christ, and salvation. Usually, most people who make it past the third or fourth Bible study have accepted Christ as their Savior.

The second series of Bible studies has ten lessons and the third one has twenty-four. They take people through the doctrines of the Bible and several other topics. Every person who has ever completed one or more Bible studies is also recorded in a database at the seminary, and the filled-out quizzes are graded and recorded too.

It is quite a big operation that the seminary inherited from another missionary in Brazil. This man was fully supported by churches in America to run the correspondence school. But when he retired, he asked the seminary if they would take over for him since they used a lot of the Bible studies. He also tried to convince his supporting churches to transfer their financial support to the school, but only a few of them did.

The correspondence school is managed by Pastor Bibiano, the pastor at Fonte de Luz Igreja Baptist which I attended on Sunday night. He is not paid for the position because the only money the school gets for the project has to go toward postage for mailing the materials around Brazil. But Pastor Bibiano has a great passion for the ministry because he was saved through it many years ago.

There are also partnering churches around Brazil that help pay for some of the postage so that they can receive the materials (which are originally sent to SBC for free from Source of Light). On the wall in the office is a map of Brazil, dotted with pins. The red pins indicate thousands of people all around the country who have done the Bible studies, and the white pins indicate other churches and individuals who help with the ministry.

It is such a neat ministry to learn about, and it was great to see its Portuguese “headquarters” at SBC. You can learn more about Source of Light Ministries at their webpage, www.sourcelight.org. It is a great tool for bringing people to Christ and discipling them!

On to the next phase of the day. We took Pastor Bibiano’s pickup and went to Juazeiro to pick up a load of wood from a wood man (I’m not sure what you’re supposed to call him). I guess it’s something like a small lumberyard. Anyway, we went there to retrieve a load of wood that belonged to Pastor Jim.

It’s a small, privately owned place on a neighborhood road, and inside the yard there were several chickens running around, scavenging for food on the ground or from a broken watermelon. A dog lied lazily off to the side with a contented smile, and the owner operated a large wood saw in the back while another man piled up the fresh-cut wood. Saw dust was everywhere and there was no way to escape it as it flew up in the air.

We found the pile of wood, stacked neatly in a corner of the shop covered in a centimeter of sawdust and another pile of not-so-neatly stacked wood. Our task was to remove the other wood on top, put our wood in the truck, and put the other wood back in place.

Oh man, that was quite the chore! The wood wasn’t too heavy (some of it was), but the dust was so thick that it really got my sinuses going. Soon we had the pickup filled but we still had almost half the wood still sitting there! So we resigned ourselves to a second trip later, dusted off ourselves the best we could, and headed home .

On the way, we drove past what was the old seminary campus in Juazeiro, and Pastor Jim told me the story of the wood. When they were young, little brothers Jim and John Leonard planted several trees next to the guys dorm so that they would someday help shade the building. They planted both cedar and ironwood trees.

The trees grew up as planned, and when the seminary moved to Crato, they had to sell that land where the dorm and the trees stood. However, they wanted to keep the wood rather than just let it go to whoever cleared the land.

Wood is expensive in Brazil. Conservation efforts make it illegal to cut down any tree that is native to Brazil. That’s right…ANY tree that is native to Brazil. If you do so, you must pay a fine for it. Therefore, any wood that is available is really expensive because it is in high demand.

But there’s a problem. Although the missionaries wanted to keep the wood, how would they get it without cutting it down? It’s hard to haul away a tree if you don’t first cut it down. Well, to make a long story short, Pastor Jim was friends with the government official in Juazeiro who is in charge off such conservation efforts, and they were able to work out a way for him to cut down all 23 trees in a single day and transport them to the new seminary campus in Crato.

The trees sat there for a few years, drying out. Seven years ago when the seminary began building its chapel, the trees were taken to this man in Juazeiro who cut them into boards and constructed windows and doors. He made ironwood windows and cedar doors for the chapel.

Pastor Jim got the windows and doors but never gave any thought to whether or not there was leftover wood. Several years later, this man sent word that there was still some remaining wood just sitting in his shop. It is really surprising to find such an honest unbeliever in Brazil!

So today we got that wood and lots of the dust that it collected over the last half-decade. Isn’t it great how God provides? Over and over again, God provided resources for the seminary and its building projects in unique ways. That’s how God does missions!

We unloaded the wood on the new property behind the houses before having a lunch of rice with beans, sausage, chicken, carrots, and several other things all mixed together. We drank passion fruit juice and had apples with dulce de leche for dessert.

I did my devotions after lunch, finishing up the story of Cornelius’ conversion. It’s another great story of God’s provision to a man who was seeking him but needed someone to share the gospel with him. It is also neat to see Peter’s responsiveness to God’s directives.

We returned to Juazeiro to get rest of the wood and then we brought it all back here and stacked it neatly in a large sea container that is sitting on the property. The sea container actually transported a large load of Source of Light Bible studies, and now it sits there as a nice little storage container. I think I might get to sleep in it later this summer.

Oh, a shower hasn’t felt so good for so long! Every morning after I run I take a cold shower, but getting all that sawdust off me felt so nice. My nose is still a little stuffy, but it shouldn’t last too long.

For supper we ate the leftover chicken croissants and flat fried chicken. I finished the passion fruit juice and had a banana for dessert. I might have done a lot of work today, but I sure didn’t need to eat a lot before I was full. I’m wondering if I’ve lost any weight yet by exercising and not eating as much? Hmmm…

During supper, we were talking about the floor in the house when Pastor Jim told me the story about it. The entire house (equivalent to the size of two average apartments) is covered in granite tiles. It is literally some of the most beautiful, expensive flooring you can purchase.

Smooth, shiny, attractive, and easy-to-clean. This is the material you normally purchase to use as a nice counter top- not the flooring for your whole house, even in the shower!

Well, Pastor Jim is good friends with another Christian man who owns a large construction company, and he isn’t hurting for money. He had leftover granite tile from some apartments that he built, and it was just sitting in a warehouse. So when he heard about these new houses being built for married seminary students, he told Pastor Jim to take anything out of the warehouse that he wanted, free of charge. CrAzY!

So, today I heard lots of great stories of God’s provision through the miracle of birth, the miracle of the second birth in Acts 10, the Source of Light Bible studies, the trees for the seminary, and the granite floor for the house .

When we learn to trust God for everything we need (and even when we don’t), He always provides, and sometimes, He goes beyond our wildest dreams. God is so much greater than we even realize.

Speaking of dreams, it’s time for bed…maybe I’ll be able to wake up for the sunrise…

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