Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trouble Enough

Bathing in the Amazon, an almost daily occurrence here where we live.

We've been living in anticipation of change for quite some time.  Gabriella will be starting college in the fall and that alone will disrupt our normal daily dynamics.  Recently we also learned about some changes coming to the aviation base where Josh works in Manaus.  The base will be closing aviation operations and are looking at several other options for a new location.  We've been officially asked by Asas de Socorro to move to Porto Velho, an Amazonian town in another state. 

For a number of reasons we feel like we need to seriously consider whether we will make another move in Brazil, or possibly do something altogether different.  In the midst of all this, we are planning our 6 month furlough which will begin in June. Focusing on the day to day can sometimes be difficult when the future is so unclear.  The sentiments of the verse “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Mt. 6:34) has become increasingly familiar.  And what comes off as a simple command "do not be anxious about tomorrow" often becomes a moment by moment struggle.

Sometimes our needs seem overwhelming. As He has always done, God is already working behind the scenes, providing just enough to assure us that He is in control and has a plan.  We have already been offered the use of 2 cars and a house during our stay in Tremont from June - Dec.  and Gabriella received sufficient financial aid to make Greenville College attainable.  

While our future is still up in the air, we are working through moments that seem to waiver from completely trusting in God's timing and plan, to having to talk ourselves down from freaking out over the lack of answers about our future. 

Last time we were in a similar situation (7 years ago), God stepped in and revealed Himself in a miraculous way (read about it here), in spite of my lack of faith (Josh talking here).  If we get the chance to spend some time with you over the next 6 months (and we hope we do!).  Pardon us if our eyes glaze over when asked about our future.  Or who knows, maybe by then we will have an awesome story to tell about how God showed up when and where least expected!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Prophetic Words

Sometimes in the course of our lives we get a glimpse at how seemingly random events get woven together to form a clear pattern, pointing at something far more significant.  A recent experience did that for me.  Both causing me to reflect on where God has taken me as well as hints at what He is doing doing today and the privilege I have to participate.

Luke and his ultralight.
For anyone that knew Luke Huber the word visionary is often used to try describe him.  Luke came to the frontier Amazonian town of Santarem with his small family in the 70's and started what today is a global church denomination with church plants in São Paulo, Tokyo and throughout Brazil.  Ask any member of Igreja da Paz and they will say the church is only what it is today because of it's founder, Luke.

Luke was a family friend and I remember conversations with him as a kid.  His passion for the lost and all consuming desire to reach them greatly impressed me.  When he found out I was interested in aviation he encouraged me to pursue aeronautical engineering so that I could come to Brazil and help him build experimental aircraft to be used by his pastors and church planters.  A far-fetched and wild idea at the time that could only be thought of as rational by a true visionary.  Sadly, Luke died in 1994 when the ultralight he was flying crashed, his dream of building airplanes in the Amazon to reach the lost seemed to have died with him.

Last week I sat in one of the churches that Luke planted in Santarem, participating in a meeting with representatives from several missions operating experimental aircraft.  The meetings centered around the idea of how we can work together to improve safety and efficiency in our goal of providing transportation to missionaries.

Lucas, one of the missionaries that hosted the event (who was actually named after Luke Huber) shared with me how Luke would take him flying, one time while allowing Lucas to take the controls he put his hand on Lucas' and said "Careful, one day this airplane will be yours".  Whether meant to be prophetic or just an encouragement, Lucas never forgot that, and today he flies that same airplane as if it were his own.

Lucas' father, Nilton, who still works as a church planter and church leader shared with the group of aviators one morning.  One story he told particularly impacted me.  He shared about a flight with Luke when they had to cut across a remote part of the jungle instead of following the river (a much safer practice when flying a floatplane).  They set out on the journey and soon the sun was beginning to set.  They had been looking for a place to land and spend the night, but saw no house for half an hour.  Finally they came to a lake that had a few houses.  They stopped for the night and the village, all from the same family, received the unexpected visitors warmly.  As was Luke and Nilton's custom, they invited the family all together and shared the Gospel with them.  The patriarch spoke for all the family when he said they all wanted to accept Christ as Lord of their lives.

In the morning as Luke and Nilton were ready to leave, the father explained the significance of their visit.  "We rarely get anyone here, maybe one boat a month will pass by selling goods from down river".  They understood his concern when he asked how were they to continue to learn about the teachings of Jesus.  They left some new testaments with the family and encouraged them to read together as a family.  As they departed Luke said, "We have churches being planted all throughout the Amazon, one day someone will arrive here to start a church".  And off they flew over the horizon.

Nilton explained that he recently had a conversation with his brother Clenildo (the main pastor of the churches where we worked with the Xingu Mission in Altamira), since that small community Nilton and Luke had visited was in the region were Clenildo worked in planting churches he wondered if Clenildo had ever found that community.  "We have been there! And there is a little church meeting there today" Clenildo replied.

Hearing these stories and remembering the impact Luke had on my life was significant.  During one of the meetings it was mentioned by someone "wouldn't it be awesome if we set up a shop here in the Amazon to build experimental airplanes to be used on the field here?"  Perhaps it was just a comment.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the dreams of Luke did not die but God was just waiting for the right time to rekindle the vision.  A vision that holds dear that one day every remote community scattered throughout the world's largest rainforest and river system will have a chance to hear the hopeful message of our Savior. 

Some of the missionaries who meet in Santarem.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


We’re just wrapping up an Annual Inspection on one of JAARS’ planes in Porto Velho.  I've enjoyed the change in scenery as well as getting to know one of our other bases of operation.  JAARS, as some of you may know, is Wycliffe Bible Translator’s aviation service; I spent 5 weeks at their headquarters in NC getting some training back in 2014. 

Porto Velho is a unique base because it is a shared partnership between Asas, our aviation ministry, and JAARS.  JAARS flies a land plan and we fly a floatplane, both Cessna 206s.  So no matter the need of the missionaries, together we can meet the need.  We share costs on a hangar, office, tools, etc. 

I have to admit I've spent too much time in the evenings this week reading about the US election results and what that means for the future of our country.  What is certainly clear is that our country is divided.  It’s easy to get caught up in who’s side is right and to focus on differences. But when we choose to make it about "us vs. them", we are all worse off, both sides are weaker.

I have found it refreshing this week, working side by side fellow missionaries from another mission, towards a common goal.  Obviously our differences are trivial compared to that between the average HRC supporter and Trump supporter, but you'd be surprised what small differences can grow into insurmountable chasms.  Maybe there is a reason that finding common ground helps heals the differences.  It seems working together forces us to focus on our common goals rather than our distinctives.  Maybe that is what the writer of Ephesians was getting at with the admonition of “bearing with one another in love".  Eugene Peterson seems to capture the idea perfectly in The Message, "pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences."

A pretty tall order in today's cultural climate, but one the Church desperately needs to model.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

water buffalo, a sinking boat, and the beauty of monotony

I've found living on the banks of the Amazon river is to live always on the verge of an adventure, and yet the monotony of life can dull us from that reality.  Scraping burnt beans from a pan or sweating through your t-shirt before 9 am has the tendency to diminish ones sense of adventure.  And yet, a medical emergency, at a moments notice, could mean a fight against time as we work to get a boat in the water and travel the 45 minutes to a hospital, no hope for an ambulance or Life Flight.  

Yesterday we got a jolt of reality, a reminder that we don't live a normal life.  It started at about 3 am when Brin sat bolt upright in our bed and whisper-screamed that we were being invaded by an army.  As I slowly climbed out of that deep slumber that only comes at 3 am, I heard an odd sound.  Only 3 feet away from our window (which is actually only a screen) was a herd of water buffalo! By the way do you know what a water buffalo sounds like? It's somewhere between a grunt and a sigh, which I suppose is why Brin's suddenly awakened brain must have assumed we were being invaded by an army of overweight soldiers, grunting and sighing their way through our yard.  

In the morning we learned a barge carrying the water buffalo to a slaughterhouse had capsized and they, being water buffalo, quickly made their getaway through the water and jungle to our school.  They promptly set about grazing, grunting and sighing.  In the moonlight, Brin had seen one of the mammoths chewing and swinging around something that looked like a towel.  Upon investigation in the morning, she was saddened to learn they had plucked from the clothesline the one dress she owned that wasn't a hand-me-down.  They may not be much to look at but they have good taste. 

But our adventures this day were not limited to late night visitors.  Later in the day I was warming up our girls before their soccer game against a neighboring village when a thunderstorm rolled through, as is common this time of year.  As we waited for the rain and winds to pass, Jeremy ran up from the river saying a boat had capsized in the river and they needed help.  We quickly put my boat in the water and sped off in the direction of where the boat had last been seen.  The sea was angry that day, my friends.  We finally located the men, clinging to floating debris and tiring quickly.  We were able to get them all lifejackets, and then circle back around and pulled them into our boat.  At least one of them, a middle aged man, probably wouldn't have lasted much longer. 

Fighting the diminishing wind and waves, we were able to finally get their motor into my boat and tie a rope onto their wooden canoe and drag it to shore.  The seven of them had been fishing on the other side of the river and were caught in the middle of the river when the storm blew in.  

The owner of the capsized boat helps Jeremy salvage the motor.

We tow the sunken boat to shore while two of the rescued fishermen "ride" in the boat.

Making the canoe seaworthy again.
After all the excitement of the day, we hosted a class party for the 7th & 8th graders.  Eight students that speak 5 different languages means the common language is English and laughter. 

Brin commented this morning that she thought yesterday could have been the plot of a sit-com.  I'm thinking something between Baywatch and Gilligan's Island.

In all seriousness, this is just another reminder of God's faithfulness and protection.  With other recent events, such as a tree falling on our dining hall and an armed robbery that took place in front of our community, it seems God is trying to teach us something about His faithfulness and care for us.  Adventure can be exhilarating, but the simple, mundane, everyday tasks can be as equally revealing of God's goodness.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

TCK. Check!

post by~  Brin

Gabriella doing a CSI unit at Science camp at Greenville College.

On our way back to Brazil after 6 weeks in the US, Ava receives her boarding pass marked "TSA pre-check." This allows her to go through an expedited security line and keep her shoes on.  Since she's just a kid, she stuck by us in the slow/shoes off lane.  But kept her shoes on.  This garnered the attention of a TSA guy who asked her to take them off.  "I'm  TCA,"  Ava declared triumphantly. She repeated it to a confused agent who then asked Josh for clarification. Josh just said, never mind and Ava took her shoes off anyway.

So Ava's "TCA" response was probably a combination of TCK and TSA.  TCK is the abbreviation for Third-culture Kid.  And that she is, so her airport mishap was understandable.  TCK are children who are raised outside the culture of their passport country.  TCK's do weird things like when Gabriella years ago was disgusted that she had to pay an additional amount at Walmart checkout (it was tax. *gasp*).  Or Ava insisting on going barefoot on a treadmill since she normally runs barefoot.  On grass, for crying out loud.

I mention these TCK moments because as a mom they matter.  There were several big reasons we went to the States;  Josh got some aviation training, Gabriella did 5 college visits, we visited friends and family, and we got much needed "breathing space" and my girls got some out-of-the-jungle exposure.  But what was really watered my weary mom soul was the scholarship Gabriella received to go to science camp. Gabriella is leaning toward science as a major for college, but as it turns out there is no one to teach upper science or advanced math this year.  That rattled me.   I felt Gabriella was sacrificing for our ministry which I am ok with, sorta.  Err, apparently not, since I admit I was rattled. The camp has been a boost to her education and is exposing her to academics outside our jungle school.  And God orchestrated it all.  I could not have chosen better. And it solidifies my trust that God cares more for my babies than I do.  He sees our needs and is carving out a path for my girls better than anything I could ever dream.  It was a gentle reminder that I can trust Him in whatever path He lights for our family.

So here are some glimpses of our 6 week stay in the US.  I could give you some pictures of what we came home to the the Amazon but mostly that was just moldy chairs, a gecko skeleton and the crumpled carcass of a tarantula. Josh tried to get work down at the hangar our first day back but ended up coming home twice, once to deliver a new pipe for one that had busted and then later to taxi out a guest.  So life is back to normal and I love it.
Josh spent 2 weeks in Florida working towards a sport pilot license. 
While Josh was in Florida the girls and I stayed in North Carolina with my parents.

That's Ava and cousin Solomon stooling on Lake of the Ozarks.
Aunt Ronesha treated the grandkids to Silver Dollar City

Mia and friends on the 4th of July

A day excursion at the Steiner's lake which included being flung from the backhoe.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A quick trip...

As many of you know, the end of the school year is often a blur.  This spring has been no different for us.  We are looking forward to some time of rest this summer.  Since Gabriella graduates from high school next year, and we will be taking a longer furlough then, we've decided to visit the States this summer for only 6 weeks.  We know the time will go by quickly, but we hope to see as many of you as possible.  Here is our itinerary thus far:

June 2-16: Josh at flight training in FL, Brin at the girls with her family in NC
June 17-26: With Josh's family
June 27 - July 12: Tremont
July 13-15: St. Louis
July 15: Leave for Brazil

Here's a recap of what we've been up to lately...

As some of you may have read in a previous post, my decrepit body is beginning to break down and I had to have surgery on my ACL.  We decided to do the surgery here in Brazil, the inset of the photo above shows me posing in front of a sign boasting that the hospital was the official hospital of the World Cup.  Brin was much more encouraged by this fact than I was.  

The surgery actually went very well (other than some complications with the epidural) and recovery has been going very smoothly.  Unfortunately, no soccer for another year though!

At work in the hangar, Josh built a test machine for alternators that will allow the shop to be an authorized repair station for alternators, hopefully providing a source of income to offset the high cost of missionary aviation.  

As Senior Advisor, Brin lead our only graduating senior, Aleia, on Senior Sneak, a tradition where the seniors sneak away on their senior trip.  

Brin and her 7/8 Grade Class during the end of year Awards Ceremony (Ava is 5th from the left).  
A highlight of student life at PQQ is the end of year banquet that is put on by the Junior Class, Gabriella being one of them.
An after school picnic for Mia and her classmates

Gabriella teaching 5/6 Science

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A view from the couch

~By Josh (some parts) & Brin (the other parts)

I'm currently laid up with a bum knee as a result of playing soccer with much younger Brazilians.  As I sat on the grass, insult was added to injury when one of the opposing players asked if I was 50 yet. Apparently my clock is running out so while I convalsece on the couch I will get you all caught up on ministry comings and goings.

In Feb. I attended a factory training at the Continental Motors facilities in AL.  The training was especially timely because about 2 weeks after returning I learned that a fellow mechanic, Victor, a Brazilian who has much more experience than I do, would be leaving Asas to work in another ministry.  Although we are sad to see Victor go, I can see how God has been preparing me to be able to take over the responsibilities as the sole full-time mechanic in our shop.

One area of prayer would be my Brazilian mechanics license.  I have been attempting to get my license here in Brazil for 4 frustrating years.  It seems like the process has completly stopped and so we have decided to start over.  Unfortunately this means resubmitting the myriad of documents that the Brazilian aviation authority requires as proof of my training in the States.  My need for a Brazilian license is all the more pressing now that Victor is no longer here.  As it stands currently, I can work on the planes, but someone else is required to sign off my work.  This can add a lot more work as someone either has to double check my work, or sign it off trusting that I have done it. 

   Ok, it's Brin turn. We recently celebrated Mia's 12th birthday tubing with classmates on the river. Also, some of the students had their first ever good ole American banana split!

I am the homeroom teacher for 7/8 grade (and that's my sweetie Ava standing next to me).  All of my students are bilingual and some even have English as their third language which makes for some interesting conversations.  I am also the Senior Sponsor so coming up (when you least expect it!) is Pqq's annual "Senior Sneak" where the senior and I will slip away for a 5 day getaway. 

It's rainy season, which means it's a race to see what will happen first: will the laundry dry before it starts to smell moldy?  Which is sorta surreal because it was only 3 months ago that our well got so low we were bathing and doing laundry in the river.  But the rainy season also brought us these gorgeous jambo blooms that make a delicate fuchsia carpet I walk on each day. 

 And speaking of fungi, look at this beauty of a mushroom.  I took this photo while out searching for glow-in-the-dark slime mold with the Biology students.  We found some, but it was disheartening to me that their young eyes perceived it before mine could.  So there you go,  Josh and I will be coming home with a cane and bifocals. 

Home, you say?  Yes, indeed!  We have tickets to travel back to the US for a quick trip this summer.  The purpose is to give us some "breathing space" so that we can continue on with ministry for the long-haul. Also,  Josh will begin the process of working towards his pilot's license, an endeavor that is more economical in the US.  Gabriella will make a few college visits and of course we can't wait to hug all our family and friends! You'll have to pardon the mold smell. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Attack of the Tapir

Josh helps with an inspection on JAARS' 206 in Porto Velho.  

Getting attacked and bitten by a strange animal would be traumatic enough, but imagine if you lived in a remote village in the vast Amazon jungle and the animal was feared to have rabies.  This awful nightmare became a reality for one missionary family this past week.  This story, while still being written, has God's hand of provision and protection all over it. 
Tapirs can grow up to 8 ft. long and almost 500 lbs.

If you've ever seen a tapir you may have thought God was running out of ideas when he got to this one... "Ok, let's combine a pig and an elephant but put him in the family of horses, zebras and donkeys."  The unfortunate tapir in our story was domesticated, living with a local family who probably had plans to make him the guest of honor at a future BQQ.  One of the reasons rabies is suspected is this tapir never showed aggressive behavior, and yet seemingly out of the blue he attacked this young missionary couple, as well as two other locals.  The injuries were not at first considered severe, but all thought it wise for them to seek treatment for rabies.  Easier said than done when you live in the middle of the jungle.

When I first heard about the freak attack I was at another of our bases helping out with an inspection on an airplane.  The pilot told us about the attack and how they were trying to figure out how to fly the couple out of the village to get medical attention. The only plane near enough to fly them out was a New Tribes Plane, but New Tribes currently has no pilot to fly the plane.  Asas de Socorro (our mission) and JAARS, another partner aviation mission, had been sending pilots to that area to fly the New Tribes plane when necessary.  Rodrigo, one of our pilots agreed to catch a commercial flight to where the New Tribes plane was and fly out the couple, their 3 kids and two other local men who had also been attacked. 

The airplane they used miraculously had just enough fuel in the tanks for the flight (procuring fuel is a difficult process in that area) and the plane had just enough hours available before a required inspection was due.  Another of God's provisions was the rabies vaccine; when first contacted, the town where they were being flown to indicated they were out of the vaccine.  At the last minute however, the vaccine was found and they were all able to receive the treatment just within the 72 hour window necessary to fight the onset of rabies. 
Wounds from the attack.

It was clear throughout the bizarre and scary ordeal that God was working.  He could have choosen any number of ways to prevent this, but instead he choose to use resources from different organizations to come together and bring glory to His name.  Throughout all of this I am reminded at how necessary aviation is to the missionary community here in the Amazon.  To receive the necessary medical treatment without an airplane would have required hiking through the jungle for a couple days and an 8 hour boat ride, something that would have been very difficult in their condition. 

Our life out in the jungle has been less perilous and as you can see in the photo below, even delicious.  Mia celebrates the arrival of a long-awaited classmate by making brownies, a process that for these girls starts 3 days previous.  First, they plucked a ripe cacao fruit from the tree and then during science all four students sucked the pulp off each individual seed, spitting them into a communal cup that was passed around the room.  The girls spread out the seeds in the sun to dry and for ants to eat the remaining bits of pulp.  The girls gathered it back up, roasted them, ground them up and got 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, just enough for a pan of brownies.  This gastronomical feat would not win the award for Best Brownie but maybe Honorable Mention for Effort, which is pretty typical for our life.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

An unexpected trip.

After a couple weeks of painting our hangar and 60th anniversary party prepping (see previous post), it was nice to be called away to help on a good ol' airframe repair.  The day before our anniversary party, I was asked if I could leave in 2 days to travel to another base to help with repairs on one of our airplanes that had suffered some damage to its landing gear.  With Brin's blessing I gladly accepted.  Not knowing if it was going to be a 2 day or 2 week project, I boarded the bus with my collegue Victor for the 10 hour bus ride north.  

Fortunatly we found the damage to be minimal and the part that we feared might need to be replaced turned out to be airworthy.  We were able to make the repair in 3 days and get home before being missed too much.  It was encouraging to spend time with some of the pilots and their wives, getting a look at their lives and ministry.  

Here are some pictures of the work, followed by some pictures of what the girls have been up to recently. 

While I was away life went on mostly as normal, here are a few recent pictures from our everyday life...

After school Mia and her friends will often play with clay scavenged from the river, here she and her friend are making volcanoes.

Another recent activity has been watching iguanas bury their eggs in the sand.

Brin's 7th and 8th grade reading class wrote prayers on paper airplanes and flew them into the river. Inspired by the book they are reading, "I am Malala".

Trying our hand at cottage cheese after the fresh milk we got had curdled.

The girls on a dress up day.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Turning 60

We served breakfast to about 300 people from the community, partnering churches, and ministries, followed by a program.

60 years is pretty old in NGO-years.  I'm not sure if it is quite like dog-years, but it's got to be up there. It seems like there are trendy NGOs that pop up all the time, they are much more vogue with their "buy our product and we'll give one away to the needy" model, but I'll be impressed when you've been doing it for a few decades, or a half dozen if you can imagine.  A friend of mine who works for a large NGO once told me these young up and comers are called boutique charities, a cute name for a cute movement.

I'm only kidding of course (apologies if you work for one of these new NGOs, I am being facetious and clearly the age of the organization has nothing to do with its effectiveness).  It just so happens that our mission organization, Asas de Socorro (Wings of Rescue) is celebrating 60 years since the first missionaries came to Brazil from Missionary Aviation Fellowship and started a chapter here.  Asas de Socorro has since grown to include a medical and dental ministry which serves in the remote communities of the Amazon.  

As the vision and mission of Asas de Socorro has grown over the years, we still have our identity rooted in Aviation, and specifically using it as a tool to further the reach of the Gospel.  Aviation has become more and more expensive in recent years, forcing many missionary aviation organizations around the world to close their doors or find creative ways to make ends meet.  I truly don't know what our organization will look like in another 60 years.  But I hope and pray that its main focus remains on helping the Gospel be heard by those who have no way of hearing on their own.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bird on a Wire

I awoke to a foreign sound, which in itself is not necessarily out of the ordinary living in the jungle where morning animal calls can induce the feeling of having been transported to another planet during the night.  Brin, who was clearly more alert than I, sat straight up and said "we should see what that was". After we investigated, it appears a bird landed on some wires, causing them to touch, which produced a shower of sparks and loud crackling that last 10 seconds or more, followed by the lose of electricity throughout campus.  Instead of tripping a breaker, the wires had over-heated, melting the insulation off the wires where they ran through the wooden roof trusses of our generator building.  

The story here is not just the interesting way we were awoken, but a story of God's goodness.  After investigating the wires (being tipped off by the smoke pouring out of the generator roof) I am convinced of one thing, God intervened in preventing a fire.  We knew going into this semester at the school that we were dangerously understaffed.  That if something such as a sickness or emergency happened to one of the staff families it could have disastrous results for the rest of us.  

This blog post was dangerously close to being a plea for help to raise money to replace our generator and metal shop building, as well as the 10's of thousands of dollars of equipment in the building.  If that were the case, I'm sure we would be asking Why did God allow this to happen?  In the same way, I find myself wondering why God didn't allow it to happen.  Is He trying to communicate that He knows our situation and He will provide for us?  That He's even in control of the birds that land on wires?  

I was able to stay home from my work at the hangar in the morning and help get new wires run.  

The burned wires after removing them from the attic illustrates how serious this short circuit was.

So what happens when there is no electricity during the scorching hot dry season in the Amazon?  No fans in the classroom make an almost unbearable heat that much more unbearable, so most of the classes ended up meeting outside, or even in the river!  Gabriella's science class (seen below) were doing some experiment which required them (conveniently) to jump into the water.