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really? only one more day?

20 May

We had to begin saying some goodbyes today.

One new friend, Andressa, commented to a few of us with sadness that some missionaries come and only get to stay a week… or a month… These people have so opened their hearts to us, and despite preparing for future community via Facebook, email, Twitter, or otherwise, this is a city, a church, and a community that will be hard to leave behind.

But indeed, we do leave São Paulo tomorrow. Our schedule on Friday is far more relaxed – basically, checkout at noon is our first actual requirement. Some will probably head to the mall near our hotel and shop for last-minute gifts (where if they have an experience like one of our team members, attractive Brazilian girls will give quite the hard-sell for Brazilian shirts for you, your parents, your kids, your niece…)

At noon tomorrow, we will actually get to eat at the churrascurria at which we’ve been meeting all week. We’re really excited about this meal – particularly we who are “in the know,” since we’ve paid big bucks at a Brazilian steakhouse in the States (or perhaps more likely for us ministers, had fancy friends take us). So that should be a neat time, and a chance for one last meal with the Julians and several of our new Brazilian friends.

Then we’ve got a couple of hours to kill (so more mall time, in all likelihood). Then it’s off to the airport!

as for this blog…

I’ll be adding to this blog as much as I can tonight and tomorrow; if there’s more to finish, it should come this weekend. I recognize that once everybody’s home, you’ll get even better stories straight from your loved ones! But others of you are reading for ministry thoughts, teaching notes, etc. So those may be some of the things that trickle onto the blog this weekend!

In any case, thank you so much for all your prayers and support of our team – and thanks for reading this blog!

downtown day, and ways to pray

17 May

For those of you diligently following our adventures here in São Paulo, sorry for the blog slow-down. Sometimes internet (and time) just isn’t as available… (Although look for notes from Monday’s teaching to be up by the morning!)

I should be able to start providing testimonies and extra pictures from the trip tomorrow – and yes, God has been at work! It’s amazing to see Him connect us with people in this gigantic city.

Today we started our “rhythm,” as I explained before. But there’s one thing I didn’t realize: Each team will make their way Downtown one of the days, and then the other days will be spent at one of the other assigned projects.

the Downtown day

That journey – and it’s quite a journey – involves quite a bit of walking, bussing, and subway-ing (after all, we headed right back down to where Virada Cultural took place).

But it was worth it, of course. And as Chris J. explained this morning, we finally got to see São Paulo “wake up” today. What was a BIG, daunting city over the weekend suddenly became a bustling, rushed, fascinating, crowded, daunting big city today. The same streets we wound through in (what felt like) the middle of the night on Saturday were suddenly filled not simply with jovens but with businesspeople, retailers, families, and many more. And cars were all over – and lest there be any doubt, pedestrians don’t exactly have the right of way.

We ventured much further than the other night, too – and São Paulo has one aspect – hills – that I’d rarely seen (being from Texas). So those add a bit to the calf workout. But we saw this city, and that’s something most Americans can’t say.

And then we saw this city that God loves from another angle.

(In case you hadn’t noticed, most of the pictures are clickable – to get it at full-size. And yes, the cityscape above does stretch as far as the eye can see.)

After exploring this newly awakened city – including finding some pretty great (and sometimes interesting) foodstuffs – we had the chance to offer Free Abraços once again, and in the middle of rush hour! What an amazing chance to break into the “active monotony” with something so shocking, so personal, and so simple as a hug. You’d be surprised how many takers the team had.

In a story I found particularly interesting, one guy led a group of pedestrians waiting at a red light in a giant group hug – which means we went from giving hugs to actually causing outsiders to hug each other! That – to me – seems like no small thing.

As I get to share testimonies in coming days, I’ll throw in some of ours from this Downtown adventure. But for now, I wanted to let you know that today was a good day, we’re safe and sound, and we so appreciate your prayers. I’ll find out more from other teams tomorrow, but for now, here are some ways you can pray:

  • Praise for God truly bonding the Brazilian church members and our team.
  • Pray that we (the non-Brazilians) would continue to be humble in a land and on a mission that isn’t ours, and continue to help in ways that really help.
  • Pray for health to continue, especially with dietary changes (like not being able to drink tap water, lots of “eating out,” etc.)
  • Pray that God would continue to move powerfully, and that we would be fully willing to participate – no matter how much out of our comfort zone that might be!
  • Pray that we would learn all we can and should from the teaching, and not only apply it here but apply it in the future.

getting the most from this blog

17 May

Just a reminder for our new readers! (Some of you have already read this.)

There are several different “audiences” following our Brazil blog this week:

  • Families and friends of those traveling
  • College ministers and others interested in learning along with us
  • Students connected to our ministries
  • Those interested in Missional ministry

So how can YOU get the most out of this blog?

1. Read what you care about. The IMB has brought me (Benson) along as their “official blogger” for the trip, so I’m going to do my best to post quite a bit! That means you’ll most likely want to be selective, reading the entries that most interest you.

2. Spread the word. Is there a family member or friend who hasn’t gotten the blog address? Or do you know a college minister, church leader, or someone else who will enjoy learning with us about Missional Ministry and College Ministry?

3. Interact. At the bottom of each post, you can click to leave a comment! Feel free to ask fun (or serious) questions, or send us a note of encouragement! (Just remember that those comments are public.) You can also contact me directly if needed; that contact info can be found here.

4. Stay tuned. If you are interested in reading a lot of the posts this week, be sure to keep checking or refreshing this page! Or if you’d like new posts sent your way, you can sign up to get them emailed to you. (Find that sign-up at the top of the right-side column.)

the beginning of our rhythm (a schedule update)

16 May

Today marked the beginning of our Teaching-and-Application rhythm that should carry us through most of the week. This morning, we spent two hours at a churrascaria* – worshiping together, sharing testimonies from last night’s activities (church and the service project), and then learning about finding “Persons of Peace” as we seek to impact other cultures. (More to come on what we’re learning.)

*Churrascaria: a Brazilian steakhouse. Generally served in a unique style, with various meats brought to one’s table. As the “meat waiter” travels person-to-person, if a specific meat is desired, it is then sliced directly from the skewer onto the plate. I’m hungry.

In case you were wondering, we’re not eating at the churrascaria (yet?). Just meeting.

One note of interest: Though we sang two songs describing standing and lifting our hands to the Lord, this early-morning roomful of rather sleepy ministers didn’t see too much of either of those activities. But we certainly worshiped!

I noted our “rhythm” for the week, which should include testimonies and learning in the mornings, followed by our partnership activities with Zoe Church in the afternoons. That’s a phenomenal thing about this kind of trip: We get to grow in understanding (like a valuable conference) and participate in much more “on the ground” ministry than might be expected for a trip involving mostly ministry leaders, not students.

While that’s been roughly today’s schedule, too, it has been a bit more relaxed than the rest of the week will be; some of the early afternoon was set aside for visiting a Sunday-only market. After that, the team went to various shopping centers nearby – to meet Paulistinos, build bridges of relationship, and find people in whom God is already working!

Tomorrow, we’ll begin participating in various sites around the city:

  1. Downtown
  2. University of São Paulo (USP), among the most prestigious schools in Latin America (see more here)
  3. Largo San Francisco (not exactly sure what this is – I’ll keep you posted)
  4. Senac (apparently a college focusing on commerce and service trades – see more here)
  5. Mackenzie Presbyterian University (see more here)

So we’ll be placed into teams, with each team “owning” one of the sites for the week. Fortunately, our hands will be strengthened by all-you-can-eat pizza tonight. In fact, I found out this is going to be no normal pizzeria; it’s a pizza rodizio, basically a churrascaria for pizza! Beleza!

arrival news, prayer requests

16 May

It turns out that three members from our group are only arriving today, as a result of the weather mess that impacted several of us the other night. So it should be good to have our entire group with us as we invade an all-you-can-eat pizzeria tonight. (Our host, Chris, is particularly excited about this place, so we’re especially looking forward to the meal.)

Meanwhile, here are some ways you can pray as our trip moves from “getting underway” to “underway”:

  • Praise for arrivals, and for a fantastic (though long) day yesterday (more to come on that, and you can read about the church service here)
  • Prayer that God would indeed move through us this week, and that our work would truly impact lives and help Zoe Church in its connections with this amazing city
  • Prayer for bonding as a group, particularly in our various site teams starting tomorrow
  • Prayer for the weather, which at the moment is threatening rain Monday through Wednesday
  • Prayer that we would all be wise about rest here at the front of the trip (fortunately, the schedule is allowing for ample time to catch up on sleep tonight)

arrived!

15 May

After the craziness of the Dallas airport experience – which ended up rerouting or otherwise “adjusting” 6 of us and putting the rest of us 2 1/2 hours late – our arrival at Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) was thankfully anticlimactic. Baggage claim went off without a hitch, as did Customs and congregating with our other team members, sponsors, and hosts.

For a moment we were a bit concerned that Customs officials had detained team member Victor, who is originally from South Africa, presently serves a college campus in Canada, and was, at least in this last leg, departing from the United States. It turned out, however, that he hadn’t checked any bags (smart guy!) and scooted on ahead, leaving the more greatly luggaged behind.

Meanwhile, always diligent to steward our supporters’ donations well, several of us formed quite a line at one Currency Exchange booth, which offered one one-hundredth of a better rate over the other option.

Our IMB sponsors as well as our church-planter hosts (including Chris Julian, left) greeted us at the airport, all looking particularly smiley and well-rested. Several had proudly donned their Z ♥ SP T-shirts. (Z = Zoe, the name of the church we’re working with; SP = São Paulo.) We sleepily followed them to our bus, which traversed the city and brought us to our destination.

That destination is the Formula One, a hotel in the “supereconômica” category… and yes, that means what you think it means. But tiny rooms are all part of the fun, right? (Notably, this hotel is owned by Accor, the company that owns my own residence of choice in the States, Motel 6.) And as you can see in the picture, the rooms may be small but are by no means shabby! (You can check out more at their site.)

coming up tonight

Tonight is actually a big night for us, as this is our chance to see the actual service of the Zoe church plant. Prior to that service tonight, we’ll have the all-important “orientation” time, where Chris Julian (our church-planter host) will explain the ins-and-outs of both the city and our activities here.

Apparently SP has a 24-hour music festival that begins (?) tonight. So after church, some members of the group may head over there to begin serving the city (with sandwiches!) and meeting people who might be interested in our work. The out-’til-midnight aspect of that undertaking may scare some people off – but hopefully many of them will remember that we can sleep when we get home!

We’ll be meeting at 4pm to get everything underway. And I’ll be here to keep you posted!

(Just a note: When I refer to times in the blog, I’ll be using our local time here. We’re an hour ahead of the United States’s present Eastern Time. You can see the present time in the little Weather widget in the right column, although you’ll need to refresh the page to update it.)

giddy-up! (flight info, etc.)

14 May

Welcome to our São Paulo Discovery Trek!

It looks like the group leaving Atlanta is having a slightly smoother time than us Dallas folks. As I write this, they appear to be boarding for their 9:45 (EDT) flight on Delta. Meanwhile we’ve been delayed in Dallas / Fort Worth until 8:50 9:30 9:40 10pm 10:10 (CDT), as weather (which here, just means rain) has caused a big mess today.

HOWEVER, we are presently trying to figure out if everybody has made their way to Dallas. Because the delays didn’t just affect departures from here, but also the flights into here. At this point, 7 are missing – and we’re pretty sure that at least a few will end up on a different flight.

[UPDATE, 9:40pm: Turns out 6 of those have been rerouted or have other arrangements. And we just “found” our last participant here at the airport, thanks to a little Google-stalking and picture-finding.]

[UPDATE, 10:05pm: We seem to be actually loading the plane and heading out! The six who didn’t make it to this flight should actually show up before us coming from Dallas. So it looks like we’re the spoilers.]

If you’d like to check in on the (main) flights from Dallas and Atlanta, you can enter flight number 963 for the Dallas group at aa.com. Or check out the Atlanta group with Flight 105 at delta.com.

After arriving at São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport (GRU), we’ll be taking a bus across town to our final destination. But “across town,” when one happens to be discussing one of the world’s largest cities, apparently means an hour-long ride.

Stay tuned for updates on everything. See you in São Paulo, whenever and however God gets us all down there!