Thursday, November 9, 2017

Nathan's Trip to Brazil

At the end of October, I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil for the first time.  It was the first time I have been in a different country than my wife and kids, and my first time visiting a country where I knew nothing of the language.  There were a few other firsts on this trip, but perhaps the most important is that it was my first opportunity to participate in one of our mission agency's international forums.
Rainy day in São Paulo
Our organization works in about 20 countries around the world.  About half of them have training centers, like Etnos, that exist to prepare local believers to join us in the work of planting churches in unreached people groups.  One of the challenges of managing so many different training programs is keeping everyone on the same page.  Our goal is that the graduates of any one of the centers can seamlessly join a team with graduates of any other center, united by shared theology, values, and ministry strategies.  In order to facilitate this coordination, our mission regularly holds forums so that leaders of the centers can meet and talk about what their programs are doing.  This year, representatives from the five campuses in Latin America met in Brazil for that purpose.

Since June, I have been serving as a member of the leadership team that oversees the Etnos training along with two Bolivian missionaries, David and Mariano.  David and I were both able to attend the forum, and we enjoyed spending nine days with coworkers from all over the world, most of whom we had never met.  Perhaps the most positive aspect of this trip was the ability to get to know other missionaries in similar ministries and chat with them about their experiences.  As it was also David's first time in Brazil and in a mission forum, it was a good shared experience for us as teammates, as well.

David expounded on a theme during the forum
One of the themes that came through very strongly in our conversations was the need for more informal discipleship of our trainees outside of the normal hours and structure of "the program."  Unfortunately, we often fall into the trap of fulfilling our "duty" of classes, counseling, and ministry responsibilities, but do not spend much time with our students outside of that environment.  Although we may be teaching good principles, disciples tend to imitate the manner in which they have been taught just as much as the material they have been taught.  If we want missionaries that take time to do life-based discipleship, that needs to be modeled here, first.

The bulk of our time was spent around this table, sharing ideas
Another strong theme ties into the last one: the need for more practice as part of training.  We already have time set aside for our students to practice the things they are learning in a variety of environments, but these tend to be structured times that are separate from the classroom.  We often teach a concept or task and then ask the students to perform it without having done it together first.  And so we are looking at how we can incorporate more demonstration and practice time into the classroom environment.

One of the challenges of the week was knowing which language to speak!  The majority of the participants work in Spanish-speaking countries (a few of us from English-speaking countries), but our Brazilian hosts speak Portuguese!  It was interesting to see what could be communicated across the language gap and what couldn't.  Generally, the Brazilians spoke Portuguese at us and we spoke Spanish at them and we got along okay, but when critical points came up, we relied on our quadrilingual coworker Barry to make sure we understood the details.
Barry translating for Kleber, the director of the program in Brazil
I didn't have the opportunity to see very much outside of the training center, but with a 20-acre campus on the outskirts of a big town, I had plenty of photographic opportunities that came to me.  My normal 6:30am wakeup was perfect to jump up and get outside just before sunrise and see what the day was going to bring.

(As usual, there are more birds/flowers/scenery photos in our Google photo album!)

David and I initially arrived on campus around midnight after a busy day of flights and airports, so I didn't have a chance to see anything before falling into bed.  Walking out the door that first morning, I was shocked to see about 10 bright red trees, called Flamboyant trees (Delonix regia)!

I was very pleased with the number of flowers and tweety birds I saw:
Great Kiskadee

Fork-tailed Flycatcher
One of my favorite moments was watching this ovenbird feeding her kids!

However, the #1 attraction for me were the buff-necked ibis.  We saw or heard them every single day as they came and went between the campus and the surrounding yards.  I got my first chance to photograph one very early in the week, but due to an error on my part (forgot to remove a lens filter), the photos I got weren't very good.
My first attempt at ibis photography ;)
I prayed all that week that I would get another shot.  I know, it's not a very "serious" prayer, but apparently God enjoys giving us the little things, because on Saturday, my last morning on campus, I had the amazing opportunity to follow this pair around for about half an hour, as they hunted for breakfast:

Saturday was a free day because we were finished with the forum but weren't leaving until the wee hours of the next morning.  I spent the day with David and a few others, wandering around the town looking for souvenirs to take back to our families.  
The only photo I actually appear in, other than the planned group photo above!

The train station

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Recent Happenings

Well, here we are at the end of another month and I see we haven't written anything for awhile.  :)  We have been very busy, but not with the sort of things that one blogs about.

During Etnos' winter vacation (July), we had the pleasure of hosting Kaylee's mom for a 10-day visit. This is the first time she has visited since we moved to Santa Cruz, so we had a lot of new things to show off!

The Santa Cruz Botanical Garden
One of our regular second-hand clothes shops
And, of course, the main plaza of Santa Cruz
After she left, we had more visitors arrive (from England and US/Mexico) to put on a 2-week advanced language workshop for our missionaries that are studying language in ethnic groups.  Nathan had lots to coordinate to make that happen and participated as much as he could.

Studying discourse analysis!

Naturally, we had to show them around, too, including dinner out in a nearby town, during which Kaylee got personal instruction on how to make sonso on a stick. :)

While the workshop was in its second week, we started classes again in the Etnos training center.  Something new this semester is that Nathan is now serving as a member of the 3-man leadership team.  This means more meetings, more decisions, more phone calls, more knocks at the door.  You can pray that we will make wise decisions and will manage the stress well.  We started off with three fairly major decisions/changes that had to be made, so that was "fun."

Another new thing this semester is that we decided to make a simple fire pit and have a family bonfire every Friday night.  Everyone is welcome and we have had  both students and staff come and enjoy an informal chat.  When we break out the marshmallows or sausages, we get a real crowd! :)
Students making their first-ever s'more at the new family firepit
I'm happy to report that the girls are doing well and are more beautiful than ever.  They started a new school year in August and are now in grades 5, 3, and 2.
Addi, Lydia, and Anne loving the plumeria blossoms!
This semester, we have 4 students that are finishing the 3-year training program.  They are currently out in an Ayoré village for 10 weeks, studying their culture and language.  The purpose is to give them a realistic opportunity to see what it is like to move into an indigenous community and try to start building relationships.  At the same time, they are cementing their understanding of the language-learning techniques we have taught as well as being stretched in their concept of teamwork.

Last Friday, halfway through their time there, we went to visit them as a family, both to encourage them and check up on how they are doing in their study.  They had lots to share about, both blessings and challenges.  Please keep them in your prayers as well as they continue until the end of October.
Consulting meeting with the whole team

They are living together in another missionary couple's house

Monday, July 3, 2017

A New Bible Translation! (part 3)

The Bible dedication conference we attended in May was a very serious (though joyous!) affair, as were the daily responsibilities that our Etnos group had to fulfill.

Of course, it wasn't all serious.

The trip itself is a great example.  Any road trip that takes you away from your normal work and responsibility is an opportunity for fun.  For me, it's even better when you get to explore a new area and get off the beaten path.  I have never ventured south from Santa Cruz, so the entirety of the 7-hour drive was new country for me.

The first 170 miles are straight south on decent pavement and we covered it pretty quickly.  However, from there we turned off the 2-lane highway onto a dirt road that leads up into the mountains to the west, towards Monteagudo.  Then there is 50 miles of driving joy, including going up and over the Incahuasi "Pass," an eyebrow of a road carved out of the mountainside (video below).  It's such a mess when it's wet that the government is forking out to blow a 3/4-mile tunnel through the mountain.
Eastern mouth of the Incahuasi tunnel
View from the top of the Incahuasi hill
Another aspect of the trip that I enjoyed was the camping.  It's been a long time since I had a reason to spend 5 nights on the ground.  I had a great spot to set up camp near one of the missionaries' houses:

Pretty view :)
Of course, with a cold camp, that morning cup of coffee needs a re-think, right?  I thought ahead and made my own version of a tuna-can stove for the purpose.  I made a video about it at 5:30am the first day:

On Sunday, after several days of steady work, we decided to look for some more adventure, once all the Simba people had started for home and we had cleaned up.  One of the church leaders (also a translation helper) took us for a short hike back into the sticks to a little waterfall and pool.

It was "cold" (for around here), so no one felt like swimming, but it was a good time.  Between the mossy trees, the brush, the crick, and the drizzle, I felt like I was back in my childhood home in the Cascades!

As I mentioned, it was drizzly.  All three days of the conference were overcast and wet, actually, which meant that the drive out was even more fun than going in!
At the top of the Incahuasi hill, ready for the big descent

Panoramic view from the eastern mouth of the Incahuasi tunnel


We had to stop several times while oncoming traffic slipped and slid up the hill

The tanker truck at the left is stuck, getting pulled by the excavator
Thankfully, we had no trouble and even the 2-wheel drive van got through without pulling or pushing.

Here's what the drive down the hill looked like:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A New Bible Translation! (part 2)

In my last post, I shared the exciting news of a people group that now has God's Word in their language, thanks to years of effort by our coworkers.  I also mentioned that I tagged along to the dedication conference as photographer and driver of students.  

The purpose of taking the Etnos students was twofold: (1) to give them an opportunity to see the results of successful cross-cultural ministry and participate in an important (exciting!) step in the process and (2) to be a blessing through service.  Before the conference started, the students did a lot of the labor to get the chapel and guestrooms ready and set up dining tents.  

Etnos gals sweeping out guest rooms
Cleaning and prepping the chapel

Etnos guys cutting bamboo for tent poles

1 of 2 dining tents
However, the students' main role during the weekend was to prepare and serve 3 meals per day, so that the Simba ladies could enjoy the meetings!  With max attendance approaching 200 people, it was a lot of work!

The kitchen was a beehive of continual Etnos busyness!

Armed and ready to serve! :D

Chop, chop, chop!

The gloomy weather couldn't dampen the emotion of the weekend (or the hot soup!)
Several of the students also found other ways to get involved:
Jilmer and Luis accompanied the singing times on guitar

Yovana spearheaded a program for the kids with some of the other gals

Nathaly with her little buddies
Songs and stories for the kids, in spite of the rain

Ignacio (top left) running the book table
All told, it was a great weekend in several ways.  We had new experiences, got to know each other better, and provided a service to our brothers and sisters Simba Guaraní.
Most of our Etnos group