Archive for February, 2009

Reentry

22 February 2009

Sunday, 22 Feb, NZDT.

I’ve been back in New Zealand for four days, recovering from jetlag.

What comes now?

The problem with travel is that you have a wonderful time and then it all goes away and you’re left with nothing but memories, and even they fade.

My head is still halfway over the Pacific and I have to somehow sort out how to live in two worlds.

That’s the hardest part.

New flight

19 February 2009

In Auckland (yay the free internet at the Samsung booth in International, boo the total lack of anything in Domestic) and flight has been bumped to QF2759 arriving chc probably 10-ish.

flight delayed

18 February 2009

LA 801 from Santiago has a bust whatsit and we’re delayed over 2 hours. Posting from an iPod. Not sure how long delay or when I’ll get to chch. Will update when I can.

Rio

17 February 2009

Vespasiano was a lot of fun.

Wake the Warriors ran Friday night, two sessions Saturday, and three on Sunday. Lots of interesting stuff happening: mostly people falling over and then having what seemed to be meaningful experiences. A couple of physical healings. What was more exciting was seeing the kids doing it breaking into groups and doing it themselves by the second day.

It was a great time and a nice little city with all of about two main streets but somehow things seemed a bit more functional than in Friburgo.

Day bus back to Rio (with a stopover for lunch at a wonderfully picturesque little restaurant with pretty good food) and now we’re in a Formule 1. Tomorrow I fly out to Santiago, Auckland then Christchurch.

Vespasiano

15 February 2009

We’ve arrived in Vespasiano, a small town of around 100,000 people on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais state.

The bus trip to Rio took around three hours, then the one to Belo only six hours (midnight to 6am, on a rather nice sleeper bus with reclinable seats and the only downside being an unflushable loo).

Meanwhile, one of the other Friburgo workers whose bus going down the other side of our mountain to Macáe got spectacularly delayed by a landslide, fallen power lines, a 4 metre crater, and Macáe itself is flooded under a metre of water. We’re still waiting for word.

We were a little uncertain of our reception at first since the pastor who said he’d pick us up at 6am didn’t come until around 7:30, and then the first hotel he tried to book us into was all full up and in the middle of a remodelling spree. But he got us into a cute little bed-and-breakfast (sans breakfast) sort of thing – private house out front, houses converted into hotel units out back. Apart from moments of intense embarrassment when the hotel family couldn’t believe I didn’t speak Portuguese (after all, who doesn’t), it’s great.

The Wake the Warriors seminar has been going great. Its in the church, not a camp ground, but they’ve decorated it with tents and camoflague crepe paper all around. They’re really getting into it. For those who might remember (a small group, I’m sure), its very much like the old Rise Up Boot Camps in early 1990s New Zealand. People falling all around, bodies all over the floor, etc. We’re not sure exactly what’s happening, but a lot of people are spending floor time and seem to be being touched.

We found a lan house (cybercafe) to read the Web from, and there’s a good comida á kilo / churrascaria (barbeque) restaurant. It should be fun to see how the conference continues.

Final Friburgo Videos

13 February 2009

Quarter to five. Three hours left here in Friburgo.

I’m uploading a bunch of quick videos from the house and dropin centre today to Flickr. This may take a while, so I won’t link them individually. They’ll be in the photostream as always.

Just about packed. Ten hours on buses await.

Packing

13 February 2009

Last morning in Friburgo. Time to pack my suitcase.

Sniff.

Teleférico

12 February 2009

Wednesday.

Feeling pretty much myself again. This afternoon Paul, John (the American missionary – his family’s website is here), me and Patrick (one of the guys) went ten-pin bowling. As you do.

This is up on top of one of the local hills, which you get to via cable car, called the Teleférico.

It’s a little freakier than the one in Christchurch since you have open seats, with a pull-down restraining bar in front, and then a whole lot of nothing. Particularly in the first section where there’s a huge drop-off as it swings up over the town and into the bush.

Fortunately it’s a lot easier to take going down.

The entertainment complex at the top has indoor bowling, laser tag, and a dinosaur slide which is possibly the coolest thing built by human hands in all of Brazil. All of which, though open, was completely shut down and devoid of customer activity until we came up, at 2:30pm on a Wednesday. I think I spotted two other cars with people on the way up; the second section of the cable (it’s in two halves with the complex in the middle) was completely shut down and the operators had to radio to each other to turn it on when we came past. We were the only lane open in the bowling alley too.

It’s a pretty good facility (apart from probably voiding the life insurance of anyone who goes up it) but you have to wonder why it doesn’t get a lot of custom, and how despite that it remains open. But then a lot of shopping malls seem to be like that too: half empty, yet somehow not quite dead.

It does make me realise though what a nice place Nova Friburgo could be, if things worked.

We had the 7pm church meeting tonight and as it was the last one before we leave tomorrow, everyone prayed for me and Paul. It’s all coming to an end so suddenly that I can’t quite cope with it. I do wish I knew more Portuguese; the most I can make out are a few keywords every few sentences.

We leave for Rio then Belo Horizonte tomorrow at 8pm. Surviving the youth camp could be interesting. I really have no idea what to expect in the way of accommodation or facilities, and there’s a weekend to get through.

I never did do the interviews I was hoping to do with the other workers. I guess that’s how things work out sometimes. Everything’s so chaotic and there are so many multiple schedules going on that it’s just very hard to predict what’s going to be possible, even in a month.

Lots of photos in my Flickr photostream, in case you’ve missed them.

Waking the Warriors

11 February 2009

Tuesday, 10 February.

I’ve been slightly feverish and zoned out yesterday and today; getting better this evening. “The Friburgo Lurgy” Paul calls it and says this happens often, something to do with the constant weather and temperature changes here. It doesn’t seem to be anything serious, though it’s the sickest I’ve been for a year or so.

It’s mostly annoying because I’ve lost a couple of days mostly holed up inside the house (except for a trip to town yesterday when I really did feel like I was on another planet, could hardly keep my eyes open) and now my time here is running out. We’re down to counting days.

Paul finally heard from the pastor in Belo Horizonte where he’ll be preaching on Friday, and they’re happy for me to come. That means I get to see Paul present his youth seminar, which he calls Despertem Os Guerreiros (“Waking the Warriors”). He’s been getting speaking invitations to present this for the last year or so and it’s a large part of his wider vision for what he wants to do in the future.

We’ll be travelling by long-haul bus, which I’m not especially looking forward to. But it will be an experience.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) we have a church evening service, which will be my last here. Then we leave Friburgo on Thursday afternoon (only two days away!) to take the bus to Rio (a couple of hours), then take an overnight bus (about six hours) to Belo. Then Paul does his thing, then we take the bus back to Rio, and on Tuesday afternoon I fly back to New Zealand.

So soon. I’m still not ready for goodbyes.

Still, I’ve never been to Belo Horizonte before, so that should be fun. I’m not sure what the Internet link will be like there but I’ll try to blog some impressions.

I’m particularly hoping to see if anything interesting happens during the Waking the Warriors course because it’s all about teaching children and teenagers how to pray and do miracles (“ministry in the Spirit” in Pentecostal jargon). Miracles don’t always happen when children pray, but they often seem to be better at it than adults.

Yesterday, while spaced out on the couch, I watched a DVD copy of the Finger of God movie. There are some very cool manifestations captured (including the glitter, as well as gold teeth – that’s another one Paul’s seen here – people with bad teeth sometimes randomly get replacement ones made of a shiny metal. What the? We don’t know either.)

But more important was the film’s lesson that the point of religion needs to be *love*.

One of the most interesting people on the movie (to me) was Heidi Baker, who with her husband Rolland heads up Iris Ministries, the network with which Paul’s church is affiliated. (In fact he says that Heidi is one of the main reasons why he picked Iris; Heidi’s work with children in Mozambique is very similar to what he does in Brazil. Heidi has visited Nova Friburgo, and Paul visited the Iris Mozambigue base a couple of years ago.)

I’ve never met Heidi in person, but there’s something more than ordinary about just watching her on the video; I get goosebumps. She’s channelling some kind of energy that is so beautiful, it makes me weep.

It looks like Finger of God is going to have a sequel, Furious Love.

Glitter

9 February 2009

Sunday, 8 February 2009. 9pm.

They had glitter tonight! In the worship band practice, and maybe even in the service itself! And I missed it!

Let’s back up a bit. It’s been another day already.

Last night the youth group meeting didn’t pan out. In a triumph of failed scheduling, there was a citywide combined churches youth meeting on as well which we hadn’t found out until that day. So only two of our kids turned up, and one of them wanted to go to the big meeting.

So that left just Paul and me and Rosemberg, so we closed the church and sit in his sitting room / kitchen and made popcorn and a microwave cake and ate it. Then we prayed, but I can’t say anything spectacular happened.

This morning we got to sleep in till late (no meeting till evening), which I sorely needed. I’ve been pushing myself too far and it’s not entirely easy to sleep when we have strange noises at odd hours – the fridge wakes up occasionally and makes loud clunks, sometimes it’s so hot we have to leave the fan on, there are houses mere feet away, there are gas and supermarket trucks which blare advertisements, the local children often let off firecrackers that sound disturbingly like gunshots, and an insane neighbour’s rooster (the rooster, not the neighbour – at least I presume) makes strangled metallic gargles at approximately 3am. It’s running on its own private timezone.

At noon Lucia invits us to lunch, which is a ritual I must do every time I visit. Lucia, who lives around the corner, has been one of Paul’s longest supporters. She cooks a great roast chicken with rice, potato salad, and farofa (a crumbly floury thing made from the root of manioc, or cassava – a plant which actually contains cyanide in its leaves, but the root’s okay. Awesome.)

If there were one person who I wish I knew more Portuguese so I could communicate with better (there’s a queue), it would have to be Lucia. She’s probably kept Paul alive with her cooking. As it is we have to make do with hugs and smiles.

(The Wikipedia article on Cuisine of Brazil looks pretty good. Here in Rio state, we’d mostly be eating the Southeastern dialect of food. In Belém we had a brief brush with Northern food, but definitely avoided maniçoba, which is made from the cyanide-bearing leaves of cassava and really *can* kill you.)

It’s moments like these I remember how cyberpunk Brazil is. Condensed space and time, and the future unevenly distributed. Lucia’s son, Felipe, has a 400Kbit Frinet link to the PC in his room and shows me Sim City 4. He’s actually paying less than Paul is for his 100Kbit ADSL link, but the downside is that Frinet is just Category 5 cable strung between lampposts, and it goes out when it rains. Felipe’s talking about a new cellphone which instead of having a screen can project video onto a wall.

Felipe’s niece Larissa, who I photographed four years ago (she’s kept a copy and shows it to me) is now twelve and doing gymnastics in school. She’s good enough that there’s talk of going to Austria for some kind of competition, and the word ‘Olympic-level’ has been mentioned. Of course, this will require finding a business to sponsor her, but still, it seems like amazing news.

The service is at 7pm, but the worship band start practicing at 5:30. It doesn’t cross my mind to drop in and see them. I go up on the laje and look out at the city. There is a lot of noise from everywhere. Our guys are drumming up a storm downstairs, but across the hill there’s also the sound of what seems to be a marching band moving along a street. I look but can’t see anything.

Just before 7pm I go down.

The little church fills up with about eighteen teens and adults and a few smaller kids. I know most of their names now. John (the American) on drums, Matheus like a rock star on lead guitar, Rosemberg on bass, Estefane and Eliene on vocals.

There’s a warm sense of presence in the worship. I feel as if I am being held in strong arms. As if the whole world is.

It’s our once-monthly Holy Communion service so Paul preaches on the symbology of bread and wine. At least that’s what I think he’s saying as my Portuguese only picks up a few scattered words. I think he’s saying that bread and wine was the 1st Century equivalent of ‘bread and juice’, a simple everyday meal.

Like the cake we shared last night.

Small chunks of French bread and tiny individual plastics cups of grape-flavoured juice are handed around. We eat. There is a simplicity and normality in the whole thing, amid the surreality and hyper-intensity of Brazil, that I find very calming.

What little you have, you share, and that’s enough.

We’re walking out when Paul says to John ‘Hey man, you’ve still got some of that stuff on you!’ and that’s when I realise I’ve missed the glitter.

Glitter?

It’s another one of those odd manifestations you won’t necessarily find in many Evangelical Christian textbooks (though it might be somewhere in John Wesley’s unedited journals). It’s popping up with more regularity in recent Pentecostal material though. It seems to occur particularly here in the slum, or so Paul tells me, though he says he’s also seen it in a Bill Johnson conference in New Zealand. I’ve never seen it. Most people in New Zealand I’ve talked to are skeptical and think it’s an urban myth.

The worship team had it during practice. Trina saw one speck and prayed and more came. John says “it was all over” his daughter’s hands earlier. Now it’s faded. It came on suddenly, apparently, when they prayed, and then went away afterwards.

I look at John’s face and there’s certainly a tiny pinpoint of gold above his lip, but that could be actual glitter. The spooky variety apparently looks just like ordinary children’s glitter (golden or multicoloured) has been poured over someone’s skin, and the distinguishing feature is how it vanishes.

It’s one of the phenomena I’d really love to see and document, because it’s so strange, and so beautiful, and I’ve missed it.

What does it mean? I don’t know for sure. Paul guesses it means something along the lines of ‘these children are really valuable to God’, and that seems as good an explanation as any.

I believe the guys when they say it was there. But I want to see the glitter too. I have minds I need to blow, and one of them is my own.

Paul’s disappointed too. He missed it as well.