Mike is traveling with a team this week to the interior of Maranhao. Many of you have been praying for him so I wanted to update you on the little I've heard. He has been able to call us a couple of times and report in. The team is building a medical clinic and they've been getting a lot accomplished. Mike will be traveling with a national tomorrow on the river by canoe in order to get to 8 of the people groups that we will be working with. He is really excited to get to know and start a friendship with folks we thought we would have to wait another year to meet.

As I talked with Mike today for a few moments, I heard giggling in the background. He explained that there were local children playing next to him and as he was talking he laughed and said that one of the 3 year-olds was about six inches from his white face and looking at him quite curiously. I hate that I am not there to see all that God is doing but so thankful that He is working through each of the men on the team. I know Mike will be able to share so much more when he returns so I'll leave it at that.

Back here in the city, we are having our own adventures. I conjured up the nerve to take the boys to the beach on Saturday. I say this because it is quite an ordeal to get to the more secluded/quiet area we like to go. It's worth it once there but you have to drive through the traffic of the city in our big ol' truck and then once you make it out to "no man's land" you have to kick the truck into 4-wheel drive and trudge over the sand dunes. I was very proud of myself for even having the nerve to pull off such a feat. As I sat there and watched the kids play, I began to finally feel like I was capable of making it here for a few days without ol' Mike. The kids are all fed, safe and in one piece and here we are in this beautiful setting.

This feeling was very fleeting because only a few moments later I opened up the cooler I had packed and handed a piece of watermelon to Jayden. We sat there and enjoyed our "melancia" as they call it here. Jayden ran off, WATERMELON IN HAND, to play with JohnMark and Jackson who were a bit further down the beach. After a few minutes, I started noticing something buzzing around me. I looked up and there were, seriously, around 50-100 bees/wasps/flying insects with BIG stingers all over me. I had already put the watermelon back in the cooler so I decided to walk really SLOWLY down to the ocean and prayed they would not follow me. Unfortunately, they continued with their awful aggression towards me and whatever ill-willed thing they felt I had done. I tried not to freak out which was honestly REALLY hard not to do. I submerged myself under the water completely but every time I'd look up there would only be more and they were relentless.

THEN IT HIT ME! Jayden had walked off with the watermelon in his hand and at that point, watermelon seemed to be the only culprit! I began to lose it. I tried to stay calm and walk through the water towards the end of the beach where they were playing. I felt at least then I'd be able to yell at him to throw the watermelon down and get in the water. After finally making it to them, feeling pretty awful at that point because part of me was thinking that I was just taking all the bees to them! But I had to get to Jayden. After several moments of screaming at them they finally realized what was going on and all 3 boys got in the water a bit terrified. I honestly cannot explain in words how truly scared we all were. The bees literally were drowning in the waves next to us.

Eventually, my EXTREMELY brave 13 year-old told me he was gonna head to the car with everything because he felt like there were more on me and they weren't after him. He told the younger two boys that he would get them a beach towel and they could cover their heads and run to the car while he was grabbing everything up. He also left me a towel and told me to run for it as well. THANK GOD for JohnMark and his calmness because I was not doing a very good job of being calm. As I got out of the water, I put the towel over my head. I didn't dare look up but from the shadow on the sand, there appeared to be more than a dozen flying around. I ran, threw up, ran, threw up some more, and then jumped in the car. (Pretty sure I got sick from swallowing all the salt water!) UGh!!!

I share all this because we were in awe as we drove home. We killed the few that had made it into the car on me but none of us were feeling any burning sensations from stings. We made it home in one piece. It wasn't until about 30 HOURS later that we began to notice our marks and whelps beginning to show up and burn a bit. I've never seen anything like it. Nothing for almost a day and a half and then all of a sudden we began having painful red spots on our ears, shoulders, and backs. SO COMPLETELY STRANGE! We have found out since that many people here have died from bee swarm attacks so all four of us feel completely thankful that nothing worse happened. Our sores are getting better today and we've decided that we're gonna wait and let Mike get home before we make any more adventurous excursions!!


white plastic chairs lined up in a row

On Friday night, we drove out to the little community where our friends live. They had shared with Mike about their church service they have there and really wanted us to come some time. Michael called one of the guys and informed him we would be coming and he asked for directions. Everton told Mike to call when we reached the small town and he'd talk us in "so to speak" over the cell phone since it's a really really small community.

When we got to the edge of town (the part where the road turns into sand) Mike called Everton and he literally waved us down after talking us past the first two landmarks. When we got there we were late. Getting out of the city had taken us about 45 minutes rather than the normal 15 because of traffic being extremely awful.

As we started up to this little building we noticed all these people sitting outside. At first I was thinking that they either hadn't started yet or it was already over because so many people were sitting around the building but then as I looked up ahead I realized that these were some of the people from their community hanging out. There were at least 50 people spread into different groups of tens and they were staring at us with the utmost interest.

We were hoping to slip in or stand towards the back but of course there were 5 empty white plastic chairs right on the front row waiting for us. UGGGH!!! I hate that. So much for not being rude and disrupting. Since we were on the front row and there was only a handful of people there it felt awkward not to turn around and at least try and make eye contact with the women and smile as big as possible. They seemed to like that. As a couple of guys shared, I couldn't help but be distracted a bit. Why are they set up like this? Why, when there are only a few people in this room, do they feel the need to put the chairs in a row facing forward? Why are they trying to be so formal when there are a million ants under my chair eating a dead fly?

It all goes back to what they've been taught. Someone along the way came and shared Christ with them and I am so glad they did because that is obviously the most important thing but then something else happened. Someone also told them that they needed a building. Someone clearly informed them they needed their chairs lined up just so. They would need to sing about 3 to 4 songs and then someone will need to share a message. It was kinda funny to see someone's hand prints all over this place. I guess why I'm saying this is because it didn't fit them. It didn't fit at all. It felt awkward. Out in the streets, in people's homes, in the barraca down the street, no one was sitting or acting like this. Why here? Why change the culture when we put God into the mixture? After all, is God not out in the streets, in people's homes, or in the barraca with the people.

What if instead of sitting inside this building on this beautiful night, we took these chairs outside. Remember how many people I said were right outside. Some just by chance but I guarantee others are trying to hear what's being said. Granted some probably came to see the gringos but regardless, imagine the audacity of packing those chairs outside and maybe even forming them in a circle or some other crazy shape like that where we can see each others faces. Imagine instead of the typical ORDER of service, someone shares what God did in their life that week or even crazier someone has a question. Can you even imagine! Why do we put things like the body of Christ in such a box? I just don't get it. And then, God forgive us, why do we teach others to do the same thing!

Forgive me for getting on a soapbox for a moment but where in the Bible are these things taught?!? What was interesting is that this church is struggling right now because they don't have an "official" pastor. "Official" pastor being defined as someone that has been to seminary. This causes them to not feel like they are a true church. The irony is that they are doing so much on their own. The group, made up mostly of men, is very unusual for this culture. Most churches in Brazil or Latin America have many women and children that come without the men. Instead, in this group, there are about 10 really strong Christian men that are considered leaders in the community and they want to make a difference. WOW!

Obviously, there is a lot more to learn and Mike hopes to be able to help in any way he can but please join us in praying for this small group of believers. Pray that churches will let go of the traditions and rules that are gripping them and search for TRUTH as new churches are being planted and existing churches continue to grow. My heart aches for the burden that is on each of these churches as they try to fit a mold that simply isn't necessary!!