Monday, November 27, 2006

Kids Build Toy Favela

Some children in Rio created a toy favela (slum) in a vacant lot in their neighborhood. Here is a very interesting article with photos.

Apparently, the main benefit to the kids (now older teens) is the opportunity to learn video shooting and production skills from the documentary folks who have come to cover their art. They have begun producing animated videos for Brazil's Nickelodeon channel. Here is a sample of one of their episodes which, at less than 1 minute, is presumably MUCH shorter than the Nickelodeon show.

Monday, November 20, 2006

WWDE? What would Daniel Eat?

Or, When a "Foody" Fasts

I've been on a fast lately. Jeff went to the states on November 2 for 2 weeks and I couldn't help noticing that that was exactly 40 days from when I leave for the states on December 12. Combine that with my recent interest in fasting and a great little book I read on the subject and I'm off on a 40-day adventure.
Today was day 20. I actually started a few days before Jeff left. This was really good because I really needed the moral support those first few days.
The plan was the following:
3 days water only.
2 days juice/water.
2 weeks of water, vegetables, whole rice, melba toast.
Then I added tea, bread, and some oils (like in peanut butter).

The water and veggies only deal is what some call a "Daniel fast," based on Daniel's fasts in the Biblical book of the same name. He and his friends, afraid of eating non-Kosher food in Babylon, restricted their diet to vegetables and water. Later in the book, he went on a three-week fast when he ate "no rich foods." This is currently a very fashionable way to fast, because it's less painful and can be used for extended periods of time. So, basically, I'm doing my own version of a Daniel fast. I'm calling it a Daniel diet, although my goal is to get closer to God, not to actually diet.
Some observations at this point:
I've lost 4 kilos. This wasn't my intent, but I'm not complaining!
I spent days 2-4 in horrible pain. I'm so glad I didn't try and do a water-only fast for a longer time period. Apparently, some important mineral (potassium?) washed out of my cells. It was awful.
I did a lot of research on fasting before I started and it turns out this is really dangerous stuff. I'll never do a water-only fast without hearing directly from God! I'm pretty sure I was supposed to do this one, but it sure was hard. Apparently, the most dangerous part is when the fast is over. You can actually go into kidney failure if you're not careful!
I have had some pretty significant spiritual "markers" since beginning, and gotten some ideas for works, but I expect the main results to come after the fast is completed.
Anyway, my biggest surprise was what an awful faster I am. When I was younger I fasted a good deal. But then I was in college and grad school and food was not a big deal.
So, what happens when food preparation is your hobby and you put rather bizzare restrictions on your diet? You spend your days inventing delectible recipes that conform to these restrictions! Stewed plums. Grilled Portobello mushrooms. Sushi (OK, I bought the sushi). Quinua grain from the mountains of Bolivia. The World's Best Oatmeal.
I've had a blast.
I don't know that Daniel would have done it this way, tho.
I think next time it may be simpler to ask before each menu plan, "Would Daniel eat that?" Rather than try to lay out every little rule to follow in the beginning.
Anyway, that's what I'm up to these days.
If you think of it, pray for me to honor God in this venture, or maybe just to make it through Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Prayer Request

This from our fellow IMB missionaries here in town:

Dear prayer warriors,

Because of an unfortunate auto accident here in Brazil on Friday, we need to ask for your urgent prayers for a complicated situation. Whether this should be viewed as an attack by the evil one or just unfortunate circumstances of life, we know that God can work on behalf of our and your prayers to resolve this. After having spent three days driving to arrive in Campinas, São Paulo, during which Mark had two very encouraging meetings with Brazilian leaders who are excited about being a part of Project Sedi, Mark was in the process of preparing the studio for doing the beginning taping of the project. He realized that he was dangerously tired, so he asked the pastor who was working with him if he would be willing to drive the car. An unlicensed and undocumented motorcylist ran into the side of the car, and was taken to the hospital with a scraped leg. In Brazil, because the motorcyclist was injured, he becomes the victim and our pastor friend, Vladmir, is considered to be the agressor, even though the young man was clearly in the wrong. Here is where it gets complicated: This young man could file suit against Vladmir, since he was the driver of the vehicle. Also, as the owners of the vehicle, the mission is not cleared until the driver is cleared. And finally, our supervisor said that as a foreigner in this country, Mark’s career as a missionary in Brazil could be jeopardized. We ask that you pray that Pastor Vladmir be exhonerated of all responsibility for this accident. Pray that the motor cycle driver would heal quickly, and that no legal action would be registered against Vladmir, the mission, or Mark. As you know, we are preparing to fly to the US on Tuesday evening to attend our son’s wedding. Tuesday morning Mark has an appointment to meet with the police to do the final paperwork for this accident. (Friday the photographer was not “in” at the police station, and Monday is a holiday.) Please pray for a speedy and complete resolution of all these issues.

Gratefully yours,
Diane Ellis

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

TV Preachers and CPMs

Shortly after his release from prison and the release of his autobiography, I had the chance to sit down with Jim Bakker at a convention in Los Angeles. I was working for a radio station at the time and convinced the news crew to let me do the interview. I wanted to give Bakker the opportunity to tell his side of the story.

I told him how I’d seen his ministry change, from a simple, sincere morning interview program to a media extravaganza complete with Christian shopping malls and time-share condominiums. I opened with the obvious question: “WHAT HAPPENED?!!”

He told me that the ministry outgrew his capacity to keep up with it. That, by the end, they were having to raise 1 million dollars a week* just to keep it going. The pressure was tremendous. The focus shifted from the people being reached to the money needed to reach them.

I’ve seen ministers rationalize that type of thinking. “We stress X% growth and we count numbers because each number is a soul.”

My husband, Jeff, has been working for the past year to plant a network of house churches in the working class suburbs of Porto Alegre. The problem now is that the leaders want a church building. Never mind they don’t have but about 15 people to put in it. Never mind that no one has the funds to pay rent or mortgage, or even a power bill. They want to be “official”.

I don’t begrudge these folks a building, or respect in their community. I go to a church that meets in a building, always have. My fear of the building is that the focus will shift from those people who need to be reached to the need to fill up the building and pay the bills that come with it. It’s almost inevitable.

I had a surreal conversation with a fellow missionary (not IMB) the other day. I asked about their new church plant among the upper-class here in town. She described how they were moving the time of their weekly service to Sunday morning, from Sunday evening, because they thought people might find that more convenient. She continued to tell me who all they had talked to and how they were trying to attract them to this weekly service.

I just wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her and say: YOU DID NOT GIVE UP YOUR LIFE AND MOVE TO BRAZIL TO GET PEOPLE TO ATTEND A ONE-HOUR WEEKLY CHURCH SERVICE!!!


There was a time when we equated church attendance and Christian growth. In the early years of our marriage, we spent HOURS strategizing on how to get young couples to attend church. We had events, we went to conferences, we lost sleep, we prayed.

I see now that the problem was likely that our focus was on the attendance, and not the people. We had no idea that was what we were doing.

I hope this group doesn’t lose their focus.

*My memory may be faulty here. It may have been per day or something like that.

Friday, November 10, 2006

My Buddy George

Jeff is in the states for two weeks taking a doctoral seminar. I'm here in Porto Alegre with the kids. We've had a really good time so far--and we've past the half way point. Jeff returns on Wednesday.
While Jeff has been out, I've been spending lots of time with George . I don't know how many of you have a George Foreman grill, but they can be extremely useful. Especially when you're alone with small children and don't want to cook. George makes grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, toast, steaks. The only drawback is he's a bear to clean. Newer Georges have removable plates that go in the dishwasher -- so don't let this turn you off if you don't own one already.
Jeff hates mushroooms, so I've taking the opportunity to eat Portobello mushrooms for supper almost every night. Simple recipe, just spray the mushroom (both sides) with Pam (or brush on oil) and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill. They're great on thick slices of toast.
On a side note, I thought I was rather high-tech with my kitchen. Most of my recipes are on the computer or the internet, as is my shopping list. But this takes the cake (or should I say the "steak")