We chose the anchor as the Agape Year logo for a number of reasons, but the one that is on my mind right now is that the anchor holds us secure, even in the tumult of a storm.
I remember sitting down with our graphic designer to brainstorm ideas for our logo. He was kind enough to come to our house after we had put Henry down to bed, and as we sat around our dining room table, he asked us some very good questions about our hopes for how our Fellows would be formed through the year and about our desired outcomes for them. Erika and I kept coming back to this idea of Agape Year anchoring the Fellows in their identity in Christ. Anchored in God’s Story, in scripture. Anchored in the Body of Christ, in the Family of God. Anchored in their call, in participating in bringing God’s Kingdom come here on earth as it is in Heaven.
A Story to Believe In. A Family to Belong To. A Kingdom to Build. This is the identity we pray our Fellows will be anchored in.
There are no shortages of storms that come into a young adults life. This past year we saw our Fellows buffeted and tossed by trials. And we saw them cling to their anchor when all felt lost. We were honored to hold on alongside of them.
In the letter to the Hebrews we read that “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…” (Hebrews 6:19 ESV) God made Abraham a promise, and Abraham clung to that promise, to that hope, like an anchor. The Apostle Paul knew something about clinging to things in the midst of a storm, shipwrecked and adrift in the open sea.
And we ourselves cling to that anchor. Erika and I lost a baby to miscarriage this summer. It happened while we were close to the sea, and we spent hours watching waves crash against the rocks as tides rose and fell. We cried and clung to our Anchor.
In just a few days our new Agape Year cohort will arrive in Pittsburgh. In the coming months you’ll be updated with stories and pictures of their journey. But for now, can you pray for them? Can you pray for Kieran as he comes from Florida? Can you pray for Tessa as she journeys from Massachusetts?
And can you pray for us? We are so honored to co-labor in building His Kingdom alongside of you. We could not do this without your prayers and financial support. Speaking of financial support, we are in need. We daily trust that God will provide for all of our needs and right now we need financial support. Would you consider supporting us in our call with monthly financial support? You can do that here. We’d love to chat about that.
The Blessings of Involving the Local Community in Mission
by Debby McKeon
During several of our early return trips to Brazil we brought handmade rugs to distribute to families and churches. Here is that story:
I enjoyed my time as a member of the local Curves fitness center in Ambridge, PA,, owned by Whitney Gresham. The camaraderie, health benefits, and community involvement was very appealing. Twice a year food drives have been held to bring donations to local food donation centers.
Some years ago, a knitting class was held at Curves to teach how to make knitted yarn squares for a patchwork afghan blanket. The blankets were raffled off to raise funds for Relay for Life, a cancer fundraising event.
Then after a devastating hurricane in Haiti, a class was held at curves to learn how to make “plarn” which is yarn made from plastic grocery bags, and then crocheted into large mats. The mats were shipped to Haiti and used as sleeping mats for children orphaned by the hurricane.
Handmade small bedside plarn mats continue being made today as an ongoing project for American service men and women serving overseas. Recipients of these foot mats have written to express their gratitude for having a mat to scruff the sand off their feet before getting into their bunk.
Debby with kids on handmade story time mat
This Ambridge, PA community outreach benefitted our ministry in Brazil as well. Some of the large mats were not the specified size needed for sleeping mats, but were perfect for use in Brazil. These large colorful plarn rugs were stuffed into our suitcases and brought to Brazil. The plarn rugs were distributed to various churches and used as floor coverings in classrooms for children’s story time during Christian Education classes, and in individual homes in neighborhoods where churches had outreach ministries. Many of these homes had a combination of dirt and rough concrete floors.
This was a Compassion Ministry neighborhood in Cabedelo, Paraiba, Brazil. A Ministry founded by Bishop Marcio Meira and his wife Pastor Linda.
Then Pastor, now Diocesan Bishop, Marcio Meira and his wife, now a Pastor, Linda receiving Plarn Rugs for the families of their Compassion Ministry in Cabedelo, Paraiba, Brazil.
Currently, I now have plans here in Brazil to involve the wider local community in the teaching of how to make plarn from plastic grocery bags for a variety of items, from story mats to women’s purses. I will write more about this in future newsletters as this aspect of our mission in Brazil unfolds.
If you are easily offended maybe you might want to skip this. Sorry the photos are sideways – I have not yet figured out how to get them properly oriented.
29 August – I decided to write about some of the WCs I have seen here. The one at the big lake where I was three weeks ago is like many in Europe, just a hole in the floor with places for ones feet. This one was on the honor system with a container outside holding toilet tissue and a place for donations. My hotel room has a very western bathroom with tub, shower, good toilet and sink. The school has five WCs, three of which are grungy. The very small one off the reception area is so little one can hardly turn around, much less sit down, and it does not look very clean. There is a relatively nice one in the school office, which is also Pastor Thai’s office, and of course there is the very nice one I discovered on the fifth floor the first time I ventured up there. It is the one I use after lunch for tooth brushing and other ablutions, but it has no soap and no hand towels. That floor has the school library, now packed for the move in October, and a game room. The students are at nap time after lunch so no one else is up there so that is the one I like to use, tKing my own soap and towel. Into the other two WCs no one from the US would really like to venture. With 45 students, most of them boys with poor aim, the floors and seats are a mess and smell awful. One of these WCs, on the third floor where most of the classrooms are, has no working light, and a teacher helping a small girl accidentally locked herself inside and could not reopen the door. The school called a locksmith who had to dismantle the door lock, so anyone can walk in at any time. Of course, there is neither soap,nor towels. The W. on the fourth floor has a large hole in the door’s window. Some students dump their soup in the sink, which gets stopped up with bits of veggies. The floor there is also dirty. All of these facilities are cleaned daily but that seems to be of little avail … it takes no time at all for them to return to their pre-cleaned state. WCs are not what I want to write about but those are the facts, ma’am.
I have tried to try everything and have come across some mystery foods. The hotel brings a couple of bananas to my room each day but one day the fruit that was delivered was something I had never seen. It had skin the color of the wax on an Edam cheese with green tentacle-like attachments. Having no idea what it was, I took it to school to learn that the dragon-loving Vietnamese often eat this dragon fruit. It was easy to peel and its edible flesh is a translucent white filled with tiny black seeds, smaller than poppy seeds. It has a nice, mildly sweet taste, and once peeled I recognized it as a staple of the hotel’s breakfast buffet. The buffet has also featured another whitish, soft-looking something cut in slices and accompanied by what looked like small pieces of rye bread. The white stuff was slimy and tasteless and the ” bread” turned out to be a mystery meat. One try was enough for me. One morning I tried what I thought was deep fried chicken nuggets that turned out to be deep fried tofu, something I came quite to like. Another day, thinking I might be taking small deep fried fish pieces, they turned out to be potato. The buffet sometimes has a fruit medley of tiny cubes of various melons in a yogurt sauce which I always take. One day the medley included cubes of hard-boiled egg, potato and some green peas, which I thought did not meld well with the fruit and which I did not care for as much as the original concoction.
There is a seasonal fruit that grows in bunches on trees that I at first thought were lychee nuts. I learned they are called (phonetically) lanlin. They are shooter-marble size and have a very heavy brown shell which when opened, with some difficulty, reveal a small, opaque white ball of fruit with a hard black seed, resembling their name: dragon’s eyes. Good tasting but nearly too much work for the reward. There are dozens of other foods I have seen on display but am ill inclined to try for lack of identification. One day at school lunch we were served a soup with small pieces of fish, another of my non-favorites, so I managed to pick out a large piece with my chopsticks and deposit it in the soup of one of the other teachers – who saw me do it but did not object. The cook, who prepares about 60 lunch trays a day, fills each with sticky rice, a largely tasteless clear, usually room temperature soup, a piece of fruit, a thin green and stringy veggie of a name I had never heard and which is slightly bitter, and chunks of steamed or wok-fried meat. I now usually take just a small bowl of rice and then add to it the other foods I want from the communal pots. That way I am not wasting foods I have tried but don’t care for, and managing both portion size and selection. I may have written earlier that lunch sometimes includes quail eggs, that I at first found difficult to pick up with chopsticks. The first time they were served I asked how in the world one can control them with chopsticks, the only utensils available aside from the soup spoon, and while my lunch partners were giggling at my question, one of them told me it was OK to pick them up with the spoon. In the meantime I was able to master the chopsticks pick up. I have temporarily liberated a salt shaker from the restaurant because no meal I have eaten here is salted. At lunch I put soy sauce on the otherwise plain white rice.
Fortunately ice cream and many other fruits are the same as at home, but stay turned. I am sure I shall have other culinary challenges to report.
26 August – last week we had a visit from the Bishop of Singapore Rennis and John Lin, the Dean of the Anglican Church in Vietnam. They came to look at the new space the diocese of Singapore is purchasing for the ABBA English Centre when the lease on its current property expires at the end of October. Bishop Rennis is the tall grey-haired man in the right rear, and Dean Lin is on his immediate right, both just behind little ole grey-haired me. The man to Dean Lin’s right is a pastor from HoChiMinh City. Dean Lin sent me this nice picture of the Eagle class, the advanced English student class with which I am working. You can see their favorite poses, with lots of V-signs and mugging for the camera. The class ranges in age from seven (middle front, small boy) to sixteen (right rear).
You should be able to tap the photograph to expand it, but that does not always work, so get out your magnifying glass.