FACeTS of Madeira
News and Views related to the work of Ed and Abbie Potter, Baptist missionaries on the island of Madeira, Portugal since 1976.
Funchal Baptist Church
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Friday, January 01, 2016
New Year's Surprise!
It's official, I was silent for 1 full calendar year...plus half of 2014. We were travelling in the US and returned to Madeira in September. Our final days in the US were spent emptying the basement of Abbie's parents' house, filling a 30-yard dumpster (5' deep x 8' wide x 20' long - approx. 1.5m x 2.5m x 6m) with 60 years of accumulated "stuff". But we couldn't finish cleaning out the house at the time, and on our way back to Madeira, we spent a couple of weeks on the south coast of England visiting friends.
|Eiffel Tower from Arc du Triomphe|
1 month before attacks in Paris
This trip to the US was an unplanned trip. While my sister was here in May and June, it seemed like Mom was not doing well and we felt we shouldn't wait until next year for her 100th birthday. We decided to see her while she was still up and around and mentally alert. Hence our "extra" trip. But it also meant we would go to Arkansas to see if we could make further progress on resolving the estate of Abbie's parents.
Bigger Surprise #2: We own a house THERE.
Biggest Surprise #3: We will be leaving the Madeira mission field in 2016.
Abbie was more shocked than anyone when she heard me say we should buy the house there in Harrison. More shocked yet when I said this is not an investment move...fix up and flip it to make money...this is a permanent, physical move. For many years people have asked me about "retirement"...Madeira? US? ... When? All I ever said was, "I'll leave Madeira the same way we came: by the call of God. I just don't know if the call will be vertical or horizontal." Looks like it will be horizontal. Just as the Lord suddenly called us to leave Brazil in 1975 to come to Madeira, He has done it again. I knew I would know when the time came, and it has come.
Significant dates in 2016.
March 23 - Arrival in Brazil as missionaries - 44 years
April 18 - Ordained to ministry - 50 years
August 12 - Wedding anniversary - 50 years
August 17 - Mom's birthday - 100 years
December 3 - Arrival in Madeira as missionaries - 40 years
December 8 - My arrival in the world - 70 years
Projected plans for 2016.
|Choir before this year's Christmas cantata|
The house and property need extensive work, and April seems a good time to start, after the winter weather has passed. We will stay in Madeira until after Easter...one last cantata before we go. We plan to spend the summer working on the house and come back to Madeira in September to tie up loose ends. After 40 years there are a lot of ends to tie up----or untie. On the return we are praying about coming back via Scotland, which Abbie has visited but I never have.
- Sell our properties. Actually, the house we bought back in 1977 has been divided into 3 separate units, one of which--the middle one--we sold in 2003. That allowed us to complete the work on the bottom unit, which is a 1-bedroom apartment. We just finished completely remodelling the upper unit 2 years ago, and now God has asked us to leave it behind. That work gives us experience for what we face at Harrison, where.we would like to do another almost total makeover.
- See the purchase of the house next to the church completed. No change in the last couple years here, either. The city government still has not passed the new zoning ordinance, which was supposed to have been completed by 2007. The new plan has been announced as a priority for 2016! We have asked our lawyer to contact the seller's lawyer and see what can be worked out under the circumstances. I would like to see this resolved before we leave the field.
- Install the leadership of the work. At our next church business meeting scheduled for January 16, I will officially announce my resignation, effective in December, and ask the church to pray and choose pastors. I say "pastors" plural, because the church needs leadership in the two languages. We see God moving to provide men for both positions, but neither are bi-lingual. If the Lord confirms these men in the hearts and minds of the church, we will also be planning an ordination service when we return at the end of the summer. I can foresee officially turning over the work in December as part of symbolically celebrating our 40 years of work in Madeira. Lord willing, we will be in the US for Christmas next year.
Travel and family. There are a lot of places and people we have not seen in the US. Unlike a lot of missionaries who are with mission boards or have the privilege of having colleagues on the field, we have had to limit our time in the US, both for lack of missionary co-workers as well as the need for "secular" work. It used to be called "tent making"...now missionaries are called "bi-vocational". My experience could be called "tri-vocational" or even "quadri-vocational"...having three or four activities going at the same time. Maybe it's better to classify ourselves as "try-vocational"...we were willing to try a bit of anything over the years to support ourselves and the work. I was calculating how much time we spent in the US vs. time on the field. Roughly speaking, between March 1972 to the present (almost 44 years) I figure we were in the US less than 4 years, and that includes 18 months between Brazil and Madeira. In the 39 years on Madeira (December 1976 to present) we have been in the US less than 2 and a half years. In other words, in either case, far less than 1 year for every 10 on the field. Our oldest grandchildren are already in university, our youngest is 5 and counting.
We might even get to travel more in Europe, By living on an island, although politically in Europe, we rarely had the opportunity to see Europe. Jacque and Frank are trying to seduce us into taking them on another trip in Europe, and we'll probably let them do it.
Writing. People keep asking me to write the story of what God has done here. I write thousands of words a week, but they are other people's ideas put into another language. Perhaps, in the quiet of the Arkansas woods, I'll get to to write of the God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Church and preaching. No idea. The Lord will lead us through this in His way and time.
This will be a year of preparation, not only for a house to live in, but for us emotionally and spiritually, as we move into what will be something of a foreign culture for us. It will be a time of preparation for the church. When we first told the members of our decision, the reaction was one of shock. By giving a year's notice, they, too, will have time to adjust to the reality of a new phase of life.
When in 1975 I asked the Lord to send me to a pioneer mission field and He pointed us to Madeira, we had no clue of what was ahead of us. I had a "vision" of planting a church in every village, but it didn't take long on the field to see that I needed to adjust my vision. I then prayed, "Lord, allow me to plant at least one autonomous, self-supporting church, trusting wholly in the Lord, grounded in His Word, filled with brotherly love, and having a heart for missions - local and worldwide. If I see that come to pass, I can accept the fact I have done what You sent me to do." And it has come to pass. I would like to see the property next to the church resolved while we are here, but maybe that is a challenge the church will have to take on without us.
It's like raising a son or daughter. After you have trained them, there comes a time they have to go out and face life with the lessons you have taught them. This time it's not the children leaving the nest...it's us.
Saturday, May 31, 2014
Hanging around Colorado
|Mom at 97.75 years of age...before her operation|
Rachel came from Grand Junction (6 hours away) and Joy from Arkansas (12 hrs) to spend a week here at Pueblo. They both left on Wednesday. The night before, when Rachel's daughter, Braewyn, realized that she and Mia,Joy's daughter, would be separated the next day (they're about to turn 6, and are two months apart in age) she had an emotional meltdown. Mia went over to console her distraught cousin and said, "But you'll always be in my heart."
We're here in Pueblo until June 6, when we'll head for Oklahoma for the weekend and from there to Arkansas for a week or so.
Check the album, to which I have just added recent photos, and will try to keep updated every so often.
No more word on the progress of the documents on the house next to the church. I also note there has been a shakeup in the city government since we left, but the Lord knows what is best for His plan and timing. Otherwise, news from the church is encouraging as the various brethren have stepped in to do their part in the ministry. Your prayers are appreciated and important.
And speaking of prayers...Abbie pulled some muscles in her back on the trip over, as she was handling suitcases. This week she picked up Finn, who is solidly built...didn't help her back. She went for a massage, but still has a lot of pain. Will keep you posted on her condition.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
We came all the way for this?
The church has been left in the overall care of José Carlos, helped by Roy (in the English-language services) and Aurélio (in both Portuguese and English). Aurélio and his wife, Sietske, have been missionaries in Muslim Africa (Morrocco, Mauritania and currently, Senegal) for a number of years. Aurélio is from Madeira and they're here for the summer, so they will help house-sit, along with their two children, who are in high school and university in France and will be "home" for two months.
We arrived in the US on May 7 and spent a couple of days with Joy and Mark in Arkansas before driving to Rachel and Chris's house in western Colorado on Saturday and Sunday. Good choice. Guess what? Our trip across the Rocky Mountains on Sunday coincided with a late snow storm! We came for this?
We came over the pass at 25 mph, and saw a lot of cars that were not able to stay on the road, some overturned in the ditch. The highway was closed just after we got through to the other side of the mountains. This was not something we were expecting... I didn't bring any long sleeve shirts and neither of us had a sweater or even a lined jacket. We would have been in trouble if we had gotten stuck up there on the top. The very same thing happened to us a few years ago, but that time it was at night. The good thing this time was that it was in the middle of the day.
We came for this:
The grandkids. Braewyn, Rachel's youngest, will soon be 6. She'll start first grade in the fall, but she is already reading any book she picks up. But actually, we came for this:
Brody, Rachel's oldest graduated from high school yesterday. I'm thankful he didn't run and jump up into my arms like his sister did! The ceremony was outdoors at the football stadium, and we had to be there by 8:00 a.m. The temperature was 31ºF (about -1ºC) when we got up and about 41ºF (5º C) when we got there. Fortunately it was sunny; unfortunately we sat in the shady side of the stands. Br-r-r-r. It was better by the time the ceremony ended about 10:30 and we could go out on the field in the sun.
All of us together, including Rick and his wife, Margaret, in the dark glasses, who drove over the mountains on Monday, but the roads were clear by then. Rick's daughter, Gabbie graduates next week in Pueblo, back on the east side of the continental divide.
...and a special prayer request
We'll be headed towards Pueblo on the weekend, going through Denver on Sunday. But we're going to have an unplanned stop there for a night, at least, to see Abbie's sister, Emma. Abbie's brother-in-law, Carlton, was taken from Colorado Springs to Denver Monday night for emergency angioplasty on a cerebral aneurism. The operation yesterday went well, according to reports, but he will need care and prayers for a long time. Emma has Parkinson's and had to be take to the Emergency Room because of a seizure at the same time Carlton was being taken to the operating room. Abbie spoke with her after she was released, and we ask your prayers for both of them.
More news as I get a chance to write.
Sunday, March 09, 2014
Breaking a record
Seeing that my last post was in September, I think this is the longest I've been silent on this blog. That is a record which I guess I should say I'm setting rather than breaking. What I'm breaking is my silence.
The Annex for the church
That was the main point of the Sept. 30 post, and in that respect, there has really been no news to report until a couple of weeks ago. We still haven't received the reply to our letter to the city government, but José Carlos was able to find out from a clerk at city hall that the request had been favorably reviewed by the technicians, and the official reply is on the desk of the councilman awaiting his signature. It's been there for over a month.
When we do get the reply, then we can move to the next step: officially request a change of the use license for the property. This initial request was to see whether there would be any opposition to our using the property for our church activities, and there isn't. But...when we officially request the change, we have to include plans of the building as it currently stands, and that's when the city will realize that there has been a lot of unauthorized improvements. Legally, they could demand everything "extra" be torn down. In practice, that does not seem likely, since this "illegal" construction has been standing for 10 - 15 years or more, and no neighbors have complained (we, the church, being almost all the immediate neighbors). So, we move forward by waiting.
The 3 months of inner darkness
What was not said on Sept. 30 was that we had just begun remodelling work on our house. From the start of initial plans to getting the license from the village government took a year or so, and work began the last week of September. From that time until mid-December, Abbie could complain that she had too many men in her life, and they were right here in the house with her -- from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
I will spare you looking through the 1000+ photos I took as the work progressed, the basic rule of which was "what comes down doesn't go up". And a lot came down: ballustrades, interior walls, and yes, exterior walls, too. For two months or so, there was nothing between us and the outside world, but sheets of plastic and boards.
Here are some before and after views of the exterior. The inside story is another story. For another time.
|BEFORE: The front gate as seen from the street.|
|BEFORE: Entrance to house, seen from the street. The lower level is a separate apartment we sold|
about ten years ago. We live in the street level apartment with space in the attic.
AFTER: The door was moved out to where a gate was originally located.
|AFTER: View from the street. The windows continue around the corner to enclose the entire veranda.|
It took 37 years, but we finally feel like we've done all the fixing-up there is to do. But...
Does it ever end?
Work on the church building
We are fnally being able to relax around the house, and it's down to getting the closet spaces finished and everything put in its new location. But Monday (March 10), we have a rather major repair to do on the church building. The floor slab of the upstairs level (SS room, fellowship area) is sagging in the middle. It has for some years, but we thought perhaps the settling had stopped. But after a year of apparent stability, new cracks appeared in places that indicated we have to take action. A couple of 20' long, 20" steel beams (6m x 20 cm) will be placed under the slab, across the auditorium ceiling, and anchored to pillars in the side walls. We have a drop ceiling with inset light fixtures, so some of that has to be removed and then put back. Should take less than two weeks, but visitors to services on the 16th will likely notice something different in the auditorium. Hopefully by then, the work will be ready for the phase of replacing the ceiling and repainting.
The church at work
Not only is work being done on the physical plant of the church, God is working on the spiritual temple and the body is working, too.
Baptisms... Sorry, I didn't get any photos on February 2, when we baptized 3 persons. Two of them, Nataniel and Kayla, are children of church members, who have been raised in the church and Sunday School. We are seeing some fruit in the second generation. The 3rd person was Larisa, a Ukrainian who has been attending for a few years and who has played the violin for some of our cantatas. You'll find her in some of the photos of past cantatas. Baptism, in this case "re-baptism", was a real battle for her, as she was baptized by Adventists in Ukraine when she was 20 years old and it was only in the last week before the baptismal service that, in response to her prayer for direction from God, that she felt God speaking directly to her that she should be baptized. Another person has already mentioned in private that she believes she should be "re-baptized"; she was baptized "privately", as I would put it, by her father when she was a teen-ager, and she now understands baptism to be something more than that.
Restoration... About that same time, Daniela and Leandro came forward, asking to be forgiven by the church for their neglect. They "disappeared" from services for almost 4 years, but in recent months had started attending again. They haven't missed any services since their confession before the church and demonstrate a real desire to make the rest of their lives count.
Discipline... There have also been a couple of cases that have required action by the church to affirm the seriousness and true meaning of being a member of the church. Such cases require wisdom and discernment on the part of the leadership and the body as a whole. It isn't easy for the church, but it is necessary, if the order, peace and fellowship of the body is to be maintained.
Leadership... For the past several years, I have sensed that José Carlos is being prepared by God to lead the church. We have no plans to leave, but we also know that none of us remains here on earth forever. José Carlos is the architect who designed our church building and did the project for our house remodelling. In the last year or so, his interest and opportunities in his profession have been steadily dwindling. The severe economic crisis of Portugal has brought new construction to a virtual halt. But his interest in teaching Sunday School and in the well-being of the church have increased in inverse proportion to his architectural activities.
The church has officially recognized him as my assistant in the ministry. Although I have consulted him for years in regard to ministry issues, we now do pastoral visits together, and this has been especially important in the disciplinary cases mentioned above.
Health-wise, there's good news: Abbie's blood pressure is better than ever (the doctor seems to have hit on the right combination of medications) and my eyesight is as bad as ever. As bad as my eyes are (macular pucker in left eye--with 70% vision-- and very large floater in right eye), there's been little change since these problems appeared, practically simultaneously, 2 years ago. So that's good news. About 2 months ago, I fell and cracked a rib, but I seem to have recovered from that. What I don't know is whether I can use that as an excuse to not hang any more curtains.
We do plan to travel this summer. In 37 years in Madeira, I think the total accumulated time we've spent in the US cannot have been more than 2 years. For many years, I was teaching English in a school, or we had a Christian bookshop, or I was the US consular agent. Now, finally, we are free of all those responsibilities. Two grandchildren (Rachel's son, Brody, and Rick's daughter, Gabby) will be graduating from high school in May. In August, Mom will be 98. She wrote an e-mail the other day saying how much she's looking forward to our being at her birthday party and she's really looking forward to being there herself! The 50th reunion of my high school graduating class will be held about that same time, so we'll be away for 4 months, Lord willing. God is raising up men to lead the work in our absence: José Carlos in Portuguese, and Roy in English. Aurélio, a brother we've known for over 25 years, who's been doing missionary work in Africa (Senegal), is bi-lingual and will be here for the summer, helping out in both languages. None of them have volunteered to do the Russian meeting, however. :)
Our Ukrainian brethren
Svetlana and her mother, Olga, originally from St. Petersburg, usually attend the English service in the morning. After Petro and Lidiia returned to Kiev last summer after 12 years in Madeira, the Russian-speaking congregation is usually just Nadezhda. (We have had surprise visits from tourists a time or two.)
It gives me a chance to improve my Russian, while discussing the Bible text with this sister, and we have the opportunity to sing in Russian and Ukrainian. (Abbie has learned to play the piano well in Russian...and yes, there is a difference! Just ask her.)
Just before Christmas, Oleksiy (Alex) was released from prison and returned to Ukraine. In my 14 years of prison ministry, he was in the meetings longer than any other: 8 years. His fiancée, Katrina, came from Ukraine and spent part of the summer in our lower apartment, and she and Abbie developed a close relationship. Alex and Katrina are to be married shortly in Ukraine, but we are not in a position to attend their wedding, unfortunately. That's right about the time we'll be going to the US.
Pictures of Maidan in more peaceful times, 2003 and 2005:
|Backdrop for the scenes of the recent classes, a central area for leisurely strolls in Kiev.|
|Maidan is a popular place for festivals...this one in 2005 with booths of European countries. Our brother Petro (in dark glasses) was proud to stand in front of Portugal's booth.|
|This marker in Maidan gives the distances to cities around the world. Some shown here:|
5627 km - Mogadishu
2135 km - Monaco
6797 km - Monrovia
7326 km - Montevideo
1277 km - Moroni
1736 km - Moscow....too close for comfort?
Hopefully the pace of life and work will slow down enough to allow me to be in more regular contact. People always warned me that they're busier than ever after retiring. Having left the consulate in June, I should have expected it.
Monday, September 30, 2013
Not much news, but news
In short, just as we suspected might be the case, the existing construction we want to purchase was never approved by city planning. When we were finally able to consult the documents on file at city hall, we found that the existing approval relates to the old "central core"...basement + two floors...and all the surrounding add-ons were never approved. To what extent approval was sought, we are not sure, but there was a request for adding on to the property that was denied by City Hall in 2004. The owners probably went ahead, anyway.
This is not the fault of the current owner, who bought the property in these conditions, and legally, he has the right to sell the property. The issue facing the church is whether to purchase the property under these conditions.
José Carlos, our church member and architect, spoke with the head of the legal department of City Hall on Friday and explained the situation. Result: 1) The existing construction cannot be approved under the current zoning plan, as it exceeds the limits allowed for occupation of the lot; 2) There is a draft law under consideration to allow owners of buildings constructed before the current zoning plan went into effect to apply for exemption and have their properties legalized. But this law would not go into effect for another year or two, according to the head of the legal department...depending on the make-up of the city council. (In local elections yesterday, the party that has controlled city hall lost for the first time in 35 years. Of course, God is supreme even over city governments, so we await to see what effect this will have, in practical terms); and 3) We have been advised to send a letter to the city planning commission to say we are interested in buying the property and ask whether it is even feasible to get the use permit of the property changed from residential to one that allows for our various church needs and ministries.
We now have to compose the letter, wait on an answer, then decide whether to proceed or not. I still believe that we will eventually have the property, just not as soon as we had hoped. If it's any consolation, we went through similar bureaucratic hassles when we bought our house in 1977 and again when we bought the current church property back in the late 80's. If there were never any storms at sea, we'd never get to hear the Lord order the winds and waves to be still.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
47, Dinner and a Show
I was still suffering the effects of a long translation project, havingworked through the night from Sunday to Monday, and by Monday afternoon I still lacked a couple of hours of work on the project. But I told Abbie I would take her to the mall to shop. It had been so long since she had been there that she accepted it as part of a fitting celebration. Then, I took her out to eat and to see a show.
The restaurant is right at the top of one of the three mountain passes at 1410 m (4650 ft) elevation. The show was at a somewhat higher elevation... the upper atmosphere. Every year right at this time, there is the meteor shower as the earth moves through a "cloud of dust". This year the big night was on our anniversary, so after eating we went a bit further up. Unfortunately at the very top, a radar installation has been built so the lights were interfering with our view of the sky. We worked our way downward and found a spot that was dark and less exposed to the wind. After moondown, the setting was perfect for watching the stars, and the air was unseasonably warm. It would have been better to stay a big longer as the show was just beginning, but by midnight, we had seen 15-20 meteors, some quite large, and since I hadn't slept for 48 hours, we came home. Over dinner, we had tried to see how many anniversaries we could recall, in terms of where we were and what we did. A daunting, and admittedly impossible, challenge to get all the previous 46. If nothing else, this year we made 47 one we'll remember.