Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Almighty God for the Whole World

It has been far too long since I last posted on here, and it has definitely been a busy time. Thank you to those that are continuing to check back and read how my experience in Goiania has been going so far. For future reference, it will be my goal to post on here every four days from here on out for the rest of my time here. That should hopefully give you some kind of frame of reference to work with on how often to maybe check back for a new post.

First things first - a bit of tragedy from around the world. It has always been my hope while being called to missions that I am able to focus on what it is that God has put specifically before me. I think that there is a certain level of importance in not longing to be elsewhere, and perhaps more importantly, I am afraid that I may not fully experience or respond to God's calling for me abroad. However, time and life do not cease to exist in places that I am not currently present. The impact of this truth has never been greater than when I received news last week that one of my best friends learned about his dad taking his life. This hit me extremely hard for two reasons. The situation is not at all about me, but it is definitely hard to be so far away from someone that you are extremely close with and wish to comfort at such a trying, confusing, and hurtful time. The first time that this same friend dealt with tragedy in his life was when I was in South Africa two years ago. There is never a great time to experience a heart breaking and life changing tragedy in your life, but the particular timing of this event resulted in the first time that I was completely unable to focus on where God had me. I longed to be there for my dear friend, but I have been comforted by the thought that I personally hold no power to provide true comfort or peace for my friend. God is the only person that can do this, and I am thankful that He is not ever away or in another country. He is the God of the universe, and, while it is hard to process, He knows why this happened and also has a plan for it. Secondly, this was a person that I was extremely close with growing up. He took me to and from baseball games, and he also helped to mentor me in a lot of ways as I was growing up and figuring out the purpose of life. It wasn't unusual for me to call him my other dad, and he is someone that will be greatly missed. Please pray for my friend- Ryan Johnson. Pray for his entire family during this time and that he may be able to find the Lord's purpose in this and also that he may find peace in what I can only imagine to be the most distraught and tragic moment in his life so far.

To be honest, I do not think I can even come close to fully understanding how something like this happens. However, there is one thing that I think I am learning from it and would love to share. I have never understood more the verses in the Bible about God’s greatest commandments being to love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind; then, love your neighbor as yourself. It is by authentic love that God so desired to save us from sin. It is by authentic love, not extensive knowledge, that most of us come to see the character of Christ being reflected in other people and in this world. It is authentic love that God offers us and promises us in eternity with Him in heaven. Lastly, it is authentic love and grace from God that can help us climb out of the most sin-filled, dark places in our lives. My prayer is that more of us come to know, experience, and share this love because this life can be difficult, but we are not called or created to live without this love.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
--Matthew 22:34-40 

As far as what it is that God has been showing me in Brazil, I am excited and encouraged to share with you how ministry has been as of late. It is awesome that we are beginning to develop authentic relationships with many of the students, and they are really starting to open up and share their lives with us. Each week we have a discussion group at our house on Wednesday nights. This is a common practice for cross cultural projects, and the intent is to allow everyone to have a platform to share their beliefs with one another. I love that we do this because I think that it is awesome to investigate the deeper things in life with people from completely different backgrounds and cultures than one another. The theme for this summer’s discussion groups is “What Moves You?” This comes from life’s four existential questions. If you are wondering what the heck that word means, then don’t feel bad because I had never heard of this before coming on the trip. Simply put, these are questions that delve into the purpose for life and why we are here. We have chosen the question surrounding life’s purpose because the World Cup is here in Brazil this summer, and it is such a polarizing event that brings about a great deal of emotion. There has been a great deal of corruption surrounding the World Cup because the Brazilian government has taken a lot of money, and the citizens are unsure if all of the money is even going towards stadiums or other World Cup infrastructure. Also, the citizens feel as though there are far better needs in Brazil than soccer stadiums being strewn about the country that will have the majority of their use take place over one month’s time. This has led to a lot of protesting. On the other hand, soccer is the biggest sport in Brazil and this country has quite the decorated history of soccer players, so for many people there is excitement that the legacy can be furthered in their home country. With that being said, it is a great summer for the students here to begin developing opinions on what they think about life and where they stand on life’s big questions. At this week’s discussion group, we had twenty-plus students show up. To be honest with you, I had no faith that this would happen. It was exciting and encouraging for so many students to show up when only about six or seven had showed up the week before. The discussion was centered on our desires in life and why these desires are sometimes unmet. Many of the students professed to believe in a Creator or God, but were not sure that they believed anything beyond this. For me, this was a massive encouragement to just hear students talk about this because I was excited that this was something that they had been thinking about before. Goiania is a vastly different culture and place than where I am from in Georgia, yet the people here are thinking through many of life’s same questions, and this to me seems like no coincidence. There are a few students in particular that I have begun to get close with. Their names are: Mario, Wilson (I know, doesn’t sound that Brazilian, right?), Junior, Humberto, Felipe, and Diego. I know that you do not know much about any of these guys, but I implore you to pray for them by name. Please be praying that they may begin to further question their purpose in life, and ultimately question who Jesus is and why He is vastly important for their lives. Thank you!

This update is getting a little lengthy, so I will promise to end it with this last point. CCP stands for cross-cultural project, and we would not be experiencing the culture of Brazil without visiting places and things that are intertwined with its cultural identity. We had the great fortune to attend Brazil’s last World Cup practice game this past Tuesday (May 3, 2014), and it was an experience that I will never forget. I am a large sports fan to begin with, but there is something majestic about getting to watch sports played between teams that are representing entire nations of people. There is so much passion involved, and it unites people together that may otherwise never share a common bond or interest. (This to me is a small glimpse of what heaven may be like when all people groups and all nations will be brought together under one God to be one body, but that is maybe just a connection that I am making). The Brazilian team played Panama, and they beat them 4-0. It was a good ole fashioned whooping, and even though Panama was grossly overmatched, it was fun to see the Brazilian people come together during a game that has seemed to bring their country so much animosity and frustration. It does not go over my head that these types of experiences are not possible without your support, so I thank you so much again and would love to share with you as much as possible if you ever wanted to talk about it. The following are some photos from that day!

The anticipation was beginning to kill Michael, the other student from Georgia Tech who is also in the same fraternity that I am in, and me. We were excited to be dressed in Brazilian gear and get into the game.

Here is Michael, Josh Crouse, and me at halftime of the game. 

This is an awesome photo that Michael captured of Neymar Jr., the Brazilian team's most notorious player currently, taking a free kick that actually was the first Brazilian goal for the day.

Here is a view of the city of Goiania from inside of the stadium.

Lastly, this was Michael and me after the game with the city in the background. 

I have been praying through my list of supporter’s and support contacts, so I pray that the Lord has heard these prayers and that you are all having a great and fruitful summer.

As a thank you for reading through this Harry Potter-esque length blog post, here is a link to the first video update that I made for our Brazilian team. Enjoy it! 

In Christ,

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