Still Much to Do, but Making the Time

By now, you’ve probably lost interest in hearing about Patos, so I’ll keep it brief. Patos is a city in the interior of Paraiba. It is the third largest city in the state of Pariaba, coming in at a population of around 150,000 people. It is about a 4 and a half hour drive (though it took us just a little under 7 hours) from João Pessoa. Our purpose in going to Patos was to do a Mini-EBF in which we show the church members at Patos how one is done. For reference, here is a map of Paraiba.
Map of Paraiba


Patos Team
15 of us from João Pessoa loaded up on the van to drive to Patos. Joyce went to Recife to spend time with Juliana since she was having surgery. In her place, Ediclar came. The others that came were Mike, Sheridan, Hunter, Lori, Hunter, Mathias, Sabrina, Mark and Carolyn (Hunter’s parents), Nilson, Raniere Vieira, Bea, Julian, and Mara. When we arrived, we did not know how many kids to expect. We were initially told about 30-40 kids. Their plan was to start advertising on that Saturday morning. (EBF was only two days, Saturday and Sunday.) A few of the kids were familiar from last year, but most were a brand new face to me. On Saturday, we had 46 kids, but not many of the church members stayed around to observe. Sunday, we had even more kids… close to 70!!!! A few more of the church members stayed on Sunday to observe, but I think more were desired. Next year, I don’t think we’ll be going to Patos.

For those of you at Laurel, you’ll probably get to hear a more detailed report soon. Also… if you would like to go next year, please start praying about it now. We are hoping to start planning next years trip in December instead of like May. Also… if you haven’t check out the pictures, they are here: http://gallery2.justinacuff.net/v/mission_trips/Brazil_EBF_2007-06-28/

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Hold Tight, Gotta Find the Time

So many things to do, so little time. I still want to write about our EBF experience in Patos, post most of the pictures from the trip, and then another blog entry of lessons I (and my team members) hopefully have learned about how to travel. But before I do that, I need to finish moving stuff from the old house into the new house. Hopefully it is a small task that can be finished in a day, but I don’t know.

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EBF in Joao Pessoa

Monday through Thursday we did EBF in Joao Pessoa. We started out with 94 kids on Monday and ended up with 89 kids on Thursday. The other two days, we had between 80 and 90 kids. All in all, things went really well. Sheridan and Joyce helped out with the crafts, Mike did some Bible classes in English, and I helped out with the activities. The theme of the EBF was The Victory Race. The church building was decorated in a racecar motif.

Several (about half) of the kids this year came from an area of town that Lori calls the “Square Ministry”. These children would be similar to our agape kids at Laurel. A good majority of these kids had never set foot inside a church before EBF. On Monday, a bus was supposed to bring them to the church and take them back home afterwards, but it nevershowed up. Instead, several of the church members with cars went and loaded up about 6 or 7 kids in each car. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the bus (a Military Police bus) was able to come and bring the children.

Now to steal a story from Joey (Lori’s oldest brother)…
Lori asked Mathias what he learned today at EBF. He said that there was this man named John the Baptist and he ate stuff that he was not supposed to. God was not happy because he was eating stuff he was not supposed to. He would catch animals in the desert to eat, and it was not good for him. He would eat syrup. John was looking for Jesus, but he was not Jesus’ friend. Then he baptized Jesus and a birdie said that Jesus was the Filho de Deus (Son of God).

Now for my Mathias story….
Last night (Thursday), I was packing up my bag and Mathias asked me was I leaving. I was packing my bag and rolling up my Therm-a-rest. I said no, but I am packing my bag because we are going to be sleeping in Patos tomorrow. Patos is a city in the interior of Paraiba about 4 hours west of Joao Pessoa. This will be my first trip to the interior, so I am excited about it. Anyways, this morning Mathias welcomed me back. I told him I didn’t go anywhere yet. He said yeah, I had slept in Patos last night. He was wondering why I would sleep in Patos when it is so far away. We leave for Patos this afternoon and will be there until Monday morning. It is very doubtful that I will be checking any email while I am over there.

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a laptop this year and there isn’t a card reader at any of the computers I get to use, so I won’t be able to upload pictures until I arrive back in the states. Hopefully this will be on the 12th, but there are lots of problems in Brazillian airports right now. The airtraffic controllers are on strike. They are operating on “Standard Procedure” and doing everything by the book. This really causes a lot of delays. Loooking at our itinerary, I’m thinking there may be a chance we are going to miss our flight in Chicago because of a delay in leaving Sao Paulo, but that’s getting too far ahead.

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Marathon Flight Down

We have finally arrived in João Pessoa. We arrived really early on Sunday morning about 4:00 AM Brazil time (3:00 AM Eastern Time). Our original itinerary had us arriving at 1:30 AM on Saturday morning. We had left Knoxville on time but due to some storms in the DC area, our plane could not land. We flew around until we almost ran out of fuel. We were forced to land in Roanoke, VA to refuel. After refueling, we took off and landed in DC. When we landed, we could not find our flight on the board. Turns out, they had canceled the flight. They had rebooked us for the flight the following day, but because it was due to weather, they were unable to provide us with hotel room or anything like that. We were actually able to stay at a nice hotel for under $100 a night in the DC area.

After getting a good nights rest, we were able to get the hotel shuttle to drop us off at the mall to do some shopping for some basic necessities. We got to eat lunch at The Cheesecake Factory… (some mission trip eh?) The shuttle was able to pick us up at the mall and back to the hotel. We had talked to our travel agent some. She had told us that all the flights to João Pessoa were full. It was looking like we might have to spend the night in Sao Paulo. When we arrived in Sao Paulo, we went through customs and waited for our baggage. It never showed up. We then went to the baggage service counter and did all the paperwork for lost luggage. This would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. We wouldn’t have to carry our luggage around all day, since you can only check your luggage in 4 hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. It would also help out, since it would give us some flexibility in what flights we took to get to João Pessoa. It turns out, when we got to the TAM desk, our travel agent had been able to get us tickets on the evening flight to João Pessoa.

So after hanging out in the Sao Paulo airport for a few hours, we went through security to wait to get on our final plane. Due to the air traffic controllers being on strike, our plane that was supposed to leave at 9:35 didn’t leave until 12:35. We did eventually arrive safely and hopefully our bags will be showing up really soon. It was good to see a lot of familiar faces at church last night. We are gearing up to start EBF today.

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Brazil EBF Trip

Jennifer, Joyce, Wilson, Me, Mike, Abbey

The Team (L-R): Jennifer Romine, Joyce Troxler, Wilson Davis, Justin Acuff, Mike Buckley, Abbey Troxler

Well our trip started out on Friday the 23rd. I went over to Mike’s house and picked him up and we headed for Jennifer’s house. From there, her dad took the three of us to the airport. Joyce and Abbey would meet us there. Also meeting us was going to be Joey McKinney. Joey McKinney is Lori Hagewood’s oldest brother that also lives in João Pessoa. His family is in the US until the end of July reporting, fundraising, and relaxing. Part of the reason he was meeting us at the airport was to take some stuff down for them. Luckily we were able to take all of their stuff down plus our stuff, so it worked out really good. We left Nashville and flew in Miami. We really didn’t have much time in Miami before boarding our plane to São Paulo.

In São Paulo though, we had plenty of time between flights. In fact, almost 12 hours between flights. We had to hang out in the main airport area because they couldn’t check our luggage until 4 hours before our flight. Luckily there were a couple of World Cup games that would be on the TV that helped to pass the time. While we were in the unsecured area of the airport, Mike made a new friend. It was a lady that said she had been working but needed to contact her family that was someplace far away. So Mike got her a phone card and later ended up getting her some chocolate cause she said she wanted it. For the 7 or so hours we were in this part of the airport, the lady would hang around were we where. Once time came we could check our bags, we did and went through security. I packed my camping mattress since it is fairly lightweight I figured I could get a little nap in sometime during that 12 hours in São Paulo. I was able to get an hour before the next World Cup game started. The flight we would board would fly to João Pessoa with a stop in Recife. It was raining in Recife and João Pessoa, so that leg of the flight was REALLY bumpy. Sitting next to me on that flight were two girls with a strong British accent. They didn’t speak Portuguese but understood a few words. So when the pilot said we were making our decent down into João Pessoa… they thought he said the plane is going down (as in crashing). When we finally landed, they were so happy to be back on the ground again. The flight is only like a 20 minute flight, but when your maximum altitude isn’t even 7500ft and your in rain clouds, its gonna be a bumpy flight. I already suspected it based on the previous times I have flown that leg. When we arrived at the airport on Sunday morning around 1:30 AM, Julian, Juliana, Ricardo, Marcos Paulo, and Hunter were waiting for us. Julian and Juliana were able to take the girls and their luggage to their place. Before we could leave though, Hunter had to change out a tire since it was flat.

Day 1:
Luckily, the have church on Sunday afternoon, so we were all able to sleep in really late. I think I was the first person on the team to wake up at 10:30. We headed over to the church building and I got to catch up with some old friends. I should have remembered the surprise they like to spring on guests at the church. Chad, Jesse, and I have all had to do it, I could have warned Mike, but it slipped my mind. You see, they like to ask you if you would like to say some words tonight. You know you can’t just say No, even though you haven’t prepared anything. That’s what they did to Mike this time. They asked him if he would like to preach at the service tonight. So that’s what he did, with Hunter translating.

Day 2:
Monday was the first day of EBF (Escola Bíblica de Férias) which we would literally translate as Vacation Bible School (VBS). We showed up earlier on this day because we needed to make sure all the decorations where hung, crafts were ready, etc. Mike taught the adult class, Joyce and Abbey did crafts, Jennifer helped take the 3-4 year olds, and I helped out with activities. Wilson was still in transit thanks to Varig going Bankrupt.
Here’s a picture of the kids singing.
Singing
Afterwards Joyce, Abbey, Jennifer, and I hung out with some of the church members by going to the movies with them. It was an English movie with Portuguese subtitles, so it was easier to follow than other movies I’ve seen (dubbed into Portuguese with no subtitles).

Day 3, 4, 5:
These days seem to be about the same. We had free mornings and would usually meet up around lunch. One morning I went to Robinson’s place to try and fix his computer. I wasn’t able to do it, but I told him what the problem was and how he could fix it. It just involved getting updated drivers for his TV tuner card. One morning Wilson, Mike, and I got to see Ricardo present the statewide mission that the church in João Pessoa has. After lunch, EBF would start up. We all pretty much did the same jobs all week. Wilson took a group of kids around. On Wednesday, they moved Abbey from crafts to taking kids around. During the singing, we got to get up and do some of the actions that go with the song. This can be quite entertaining. The evenings again were spent hanging out with church members.

Day 6:
This was our only free day we had. We started out by going to the church and helping sort out food from the Food Drive that they also had during EBF. All in all, there were like 93 different kids with an average attendance of 64 kids per day. Over this time period, almost half a ton of food was collected that would be taken to 30 different families.

We went to Picãozinho with some of the church members and folks from AIM. It was pretty cool. I had never been snorkeling before. We had a really late lunch and then headed to Jacare to see the sunset. Julian took us last year to see it, but we were 15 minutes late. This year though, we arrived in plenty of time to see the sunset and hear the guy on the saxophone play as the sun went down. Afterwards we had planned to hang out some more at Juliana’s place, but it as it turns out, we had a lot of last minute details that needed to be worked out. Since all of us had at least 1 leg on Varig, we had to deal with cancelled flights. Mike, Jennifer, and Me were actually able to take a bus paid for by Varig from João Pessoa to Recife and continue on our regular itinerary. Joyce, Abbey, and Wilson had to drive up to Recife early on Saturday morning to see if they could work out a flight.

Our flight was a little late leaving Recife which means we were also late to arrive in São Paulo. Since we were switching to American Airlines, we needed to get boarding passes from the AA counter. So once we get up there, our plane had already started boarding and was scheduled to take-off in 20 minutes. The lady at the counter was kept saying… “You must try”… “Security line is really long” “You probably can’t make your flight” “But You must try.” She was right… The security line was really long. It didn’t look very promising for us. At least we weren’t the only ones trying to get on that flight in the line. There must have been about 20 other passengers that had the same concern as us. The lady at the counter also mentioned that the next two flights to the US were full. AA actually did the right thing by delaying the plane hence allowing the passengers that were in the airport a chance to board the plane. The flight back was a 10 hour flight. On the plane were about 70+ Brazilian teenagers participating in something called California Study Vacation. While many of the kids had some English skills, it wasn’t necessarily a requirement for the chaperons to have English skills. Also strange was that the flight attendants didn’t seem to have any Portuguese skills. They were a crew based out of DFW. The flight attendants weren’t able to communicate well that they wanted people seated when the seat belt sign is illuminated. (For those that have every flown a Brazilian airline, you probably know the importance of the seat belt sign.) I’ll save the story about one of the chaperons and a flight attendant for another post maybe.

After going through US customs, we were able to quickly recheck our bags and head to our next gate to board our final flight to Nashville. We were rushed the entire way back, but we made it. All in all, the trip was really good and I want to go back again. Next time, it HAS to be longer than a week though. One week was just entirely too short. Anybody want to join me next year?