My apologies to anyone trying to read this out loud to a group. Maybe you can start with "There's a funny word here in Portuguese that I don't know how to say that means 'Greetings'."
Life seems to go in tides where there are times things are a little slower and sometimes a little faster. Sometimes it's an all out Tsunami. Things aren't that crazy yet, but it has been one of those "convergence of projects" times where several things seem to come due at once.
After a holiday hiatus we've restarted the Neighborhood Sunday School project. It's never produced much though we often see kids who ask when we're going back to their street. We had one club near the house of one of our members, Eliana. Attendance fluctuated but was encouraging. Like always we invited the kids to church and offered them a ride home if they made it there. It was our most distant club location. Imagine our surprise when Eliana showed up for church with 8 of the kids all in tow. They walked almost 9/10ths of a mile holding hands in the hot afternoon sun. And they keep coming back - 6 to 10 kids almost every week. They are a bit of a discipline problem and most are way behind in school so it's been a challenge to integrate them. We started children's church during the sermon and decided to divide the SS class. Teachers are a problem at our church, but 2 teen girls said they thought they could do it together. We are excited about their involvement. It also means we have 2 classes in the auditorium for lack of space. The first week one group balked a bit. People here sometimes get attached to their private pew and if you move them they just can't seem to sleep right. I'm sure that never happens there (wink).
In the holiday interval a neighboring missionary was looking for places to do VBS with a missions team. They came all prepared with everything. We were pleased with the number of kids who came, but would have liked to have seen more from closer to the church. Eliana's kid's had 18 to squeeze into the car. I told them that if they got more I'd make 2 trips so they'd have more room. And they did. As a result of a contact with some of the girls who came to VBS we picked a place at a nearby member's house for our next club location.
We've asked for prayer for rain. I should have made a schedule so you wouldn't all pray on the same day because, boy did we have a gully-washer. We had 2 big rains about 10 days apart and though things are already turning brown again, the lake has come way up. While driving in the rain I hit a place in the street where they didn't pack the dirt where pipe had been laid. Both left wheels dropped all the way to the axle. I couldn't even open the car door. Numerous houses were flooded.
The American VBS was about this time. We had the new church programs set up for all the new kids. On Sunday Eliana called and said a lot of kids had showed up at her house an hour early. Then the second rain started and they all vanished. I went to get them in the car but even that wasn't enough. After a couple of "zero" weeks there are some kids coming now but we haven't gotten back up to the same numbers as before.
In the middle of all else the youth are interested in starting a kids program similar to AWANA at our church. It is very labor intensive and I'm not sure we have the resources to do it. I encouraged them to research it and that I would support and participate at whatever level but they will have to make it happen. I've given a timeline for our leaving the church and I'm trying to push them in their growth to autonomy. The adults contribute little and sometimes even hinder the work. I've vacillated some in this respect on how to handle the parsonage work, but think it's better to leave the house finished than to "teach them a lesson". We've got the ceiling in through a donation from BMM missionaries and have carted more wheelbarrow loads of fill dirt than I care to count. One hold up is the sewer. The city has promised for months that the lines by the house would be run "any day now". I'm hesitant to put in a septic tank and then the system come down our street and I have to pay for that too.
Another on-going project is music. A few flutists have dropped out (and a couple more should) but most of the group soldier on. Maybe that's why it sounds like a battle going on - or the medical tent before anesthesia was invented … Several have developed quite nicely and are branching out into other instruments. We often have special accompaniment during the services. The driving force behind the music is Greyson who sometimes leaves at 4pm and doesn't get back till 9 going from house to house teaching and practicing.
Michele isn't going into town to teach at the English school anymore but still has some private students. I have a couple, too. One wanted to learn about electricity and stuff and I'm teaching Portuguese to a young lady who plans to visit this year. I may get a couple of young men for English and sometimes I pick up an odd job. These are opportunities to build relationships with people we wouldn't have access to otherwise. We help with a need and give a good testimony through honesty, humility and a good work ethic.
In other news, the off-again-on-again wedding took place without a hitch…or rather there was a hitch. It was on the first attempt that they didn't get hitched. I hoped that a couple of others would catch the fever and legalize their relationships, too. I preached an unusually strong message about being a stiff-necked people. Four people came forward for prayer but there hasn't been any visible change. The next week I did a follow-up on how to follow up on a decision.
I replaced the head on the truck and apparently need to replace another major part. I would like to get a cheaper car but there aren't many that will haul 20 kids. It often spends the whole week parked while we use bikes.
The Athas in Brazil
P.S. If you want to give it a try, the pronunciation for Saudações is kind of like "saw-da-SOINS".
Byron William Atha, II
Byron William Atha, II