My pastor asked me to give the construction report for our Brazil trip at church this morning, so I thought I would share my notes here. We’ll have a video slideshow of pictures to accompany the report. My two-fold hope is that people will realize that they, too, are capable of participating in a project like this, and also that folks will understand that the construction was about more than just a building.
I was asked to give the construction report, and as I thought about what to share, I realized how dull it might sound to most of you to hear about the half-dozen pallets of bricks that we moved from Point A to Point B to Point C and back to Point A during the first couple of days. The pictures of sweaty folks spreading masa, painting with respiratory masks, climbing scaffolding and using power tools aren’t as flattering as the VBS team’s colorful and playful snapshots, I’m certain. I suppose we could have a show-and-tell about our scrapes, bruises, sunburns and Bob’s broken foot :), but what it boils down to is that building a chapel in roughly six days was a lot of hard work. But, it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.
In Matthew 6, Jesus demonstrated to his disciples how to pray. (It’s what we know today as the Lord’s Prayer.) One line of that prayer has always given me pause, and last week in Brazil, it finally dawned on me what it might mean. The line is “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
What does it really mean to usher in the kingdom of God here on earth? Philippians 2:10-11 gives us a glimpse when it says “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
As we were building the chapel in Guanabara, I realized that we were adding to the kingdom of heaven, heavy brick by crumbly brick. On the first full day at the site when Val showed me ever-so-patiently how to spread masa on cement blocks, I thought about people like him and his precious wife Luciana, who came to know Christ as a result of previous mission trips, and my heart rejoiced.
“… at the name of Jesus every knee should bow …”
On the day we finished the walls and began the roof, I listened to Fidelis (one of the pedredos) singing praise songs in Portuguese while he worked, and I thought about one of the last memories I have of my brother, standing next to him in church singing, and he looked over at me and smiled with that smirky grin of his, and my heart longed to hear his voice again.
“…every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord …”
When I walked across the street to use the restroom at the neighborhood bar – a place where many in the community perhaps sought escape from the stresses of life, I wondered about people who would happen by the church and stop in, out of curiosity, and my heart ached for them to find real refuge in our Savior.
“… to the glory of God the Father …”
This, friends, is the kingdom of God on earth. For now, we worship at a distance from the new church in Guanabara, but one day, we will stand together in worship of our God and Savior.