Thursday, October 24, 2013

One Month in and None the Wiser

Monday was a big day for me.  It marked not only an increase in a digit (one's digit thankyouverymuch!) on my age, but it also marked one of month of living in Brazil.  One month.  I've never been outside of the United States for this long.  Ten days I believe, was my longest stretch in the past.  And in one month I've learned a few peculiarities about this place in which I am learning to call home (for the time being). 

Drum roll please.... cause here are the top 5 things I've learned in one month!

1.  Parallel parking is all the rage.  Last time I parallel parked in the U.S. was....let's!  I always found a different space!

2.  Rainy season is my friend.  Without rain, it gets warm. And there isn't A.C. here.  So bring on the rain!!!!  Oh man, now I'm singing "It's raining men" which has nothing to do with any of my top 5 things because well, I just don't see what others see in Brazilian men.  Meh.  Give me a good ole, hard working man from the U.S. who loves Jesus, and I'm good. 

3.  Bugs.  Are.  Everywhere!  Even in my home.  Case in point:  this morning.  I went to pour my first cup of coffee and noticed what looked like a piece of shredded cheese on the counter.  So I naturally did what any lazy person would do before their cup of coffee and tried to flick the speck off the counter.  But when I touched began to move ON ITS OWN!  It was not cheese but a worm-bug (aka...maggot).  If I had been more awake, I would have remembered that shredded cheese does not exist here.  But apparently maggots do.  And how it got on our counter....yea...I don't even want to begin thinking about that!  And you can't tell me it's because we live in a messy place because they whole apartment had just been cleaned the day before!

4.  Language is tough.  I really struggle with it.  But there are funny things that happen because of the difficulties.  Couple of examples for you:
  • My roommate went to tell our guard that we were going to have workers at our apartment the following morning.  However, with the limited Portuguese what she said was "the men are coming to see us in the morning"  Yea....that doesn't quite sound right.  Maybe that's where the "it's raining men" song came from!
  • I learned this hilarious (maybe only to me) translation fail. know those shirts women wear...well, in Portuguese it is called "tomara que cai" and literally translated says "hope it falls down".  Yep.  Had a great laugh at that one!
5.  Taxes.  When receiving a package from the States, if the amount declared on it is more than $50, then they will tax you 60% on the amount declared.  For example, if you send a package that is labeled to have a value of $140, in order to pick up said package from the post office here, you have to pay R$240 (Brazilian:  reis) which comes out to about $130 American.  You do the math.  Basically you are paying for your items TWICE.  Yeah.  I did it.  But receiving something from the states was like manna for me.  I was longing for home and to have anything that was sent with love, was worth the cost.  What I've learned from this little experience, no matter what is in the box, you simply write the value at under $50 and don't write specifically what is in the box.  Instead, you write things like "teaching supplies", or "nerds" "Twizzlers" instead of candy.  It's how Brazil works and it even makes Brazilians mad....but it's life out here.

So there's the top five things I've learned in one month of living here.  I wish I could tell you that I've got the language down but I'm letting the little preschoolers teach me words.  Today I had the 3 year-olds trying to teach me the word for chair....which I cannot remember.  But I do remember that they laughed at my lack of rolling my r's.  Guess it's back to preschool for me until I can put together a complete sentence and order my own soda!

Hopefully by next month I can offer more insight into the culture here, but for now...this is what ya get!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Missionary or not?

The word "missionary" keeps being thrown around regarding my time here in Brazil.  It was first mentioned by the director of BIS (Brasilia International School), and again while raising support for this adventure, and even more by staff at BIS.   But can I let you in on something?  I don't feel nor necessarily think of myself as a missionary.

When the word missionary is mentioned, I think of people like Amy Carmichael, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Gladys Aylward, George Muller, Katie Davis....not me.

I see myself simply as someone who wakes up each morning, goes to work with the joy of loving on little people, I
 come home, and if I am brave enough that evening - attempts an adventure out among people I don't understand.

There is nothing grand or glamorous about my life.  Nothing like what Amy Carmichael did, or Gladys Aylward.  I am simply living my life as I feel God has directed.

 The term "missionary" seems to carry this connotation of great things accomplished in God's name.  But really, is the term "missionary" even in the Bible (I haven't researched that, so please let me know if it is)?

When Jesus sent people out to proclaim His Good News, He didn't send out "missionaries".  No, he sent people out as disciples (Mark 16:20, John 15:8).

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
~Matthew 28:19

He did not say "go and make missionaries".  No, he said disciples.  I think I can handle the word disciple versus missionary. 

A disciple is a student or follower of a doctrine or teacher.  And ultimately what Jesus is saying is "go and be my follower, let Me be your Teacher, follow My Truth.  Live for Me."

This means that wherever God has placed you, whether it is in another country, in a big city, in a small one-room school town, or as a home school are to be His disciple.  Listening to Him.  Following Him.  Being obedient to Him and sharing His truth and love right where you are.  And in that obedient life lived for Him, those around you may become His disciples as well.

My life really isn't any different than yours.  My heart is just as stubborn and honestly sometimes defiant, demanding the way I think things should be.  I just happen to be living in a foreign country.  But maybe that's what needed to happen because here...I cannot rely upon my own strength or resources.  And in order for God to make me His disciple, He had to bring me to a place where my stubborn will would be broken and where I would (hopefully one day) live fully for Him.

So, wherever God has you...whether it's mothering your little ones, or brightening some one's day with a cup of joe, patrolling the streets in your town keeping people safe, nursing the wounded, serving in the military, or even living in a foreign country - wherever you are - become a disciple of God.  Life out His truth and His Word each day.  You are a "missionary" right where He has placed you.

And my guess is...that Amy Carmichael, the Elliot's, Gladys Aylward,and George Muller didn't really see themselves as this great big missionary but as someone who simply chose to live for Christ each and every day that they were given.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week Three: Learning to be real

"In every degree in which you are not real, you will dispute rather than come, you will quibble rather than come, you will go through sorrow rather than come, you will do anything rather than come the last lap of unutterable foolishness - 'Just as I am.'  As long as you have the tiniest bit of spiritual impertinence, it will always reveal itself in the fact  that you are expecting God to tell you to do a big thing, and all He is telling you to do is to 'come'....
...anything at all that will put the axe to the root of the ting which is preventing you from getting through.  You will never get further until you are willing to do that one thing."
~Oswald Chambers

To be real, to be transparent, should be the aim in my be honest and vulnerable about my struggles and flaws.  Instead, I'd rather hide behind the front that says "I'm ok.  I'm doing well. Everything is fine."  But is that front really going to enable me to draw closer to God or will it keep me stagnate?

I read many accounts of brutal honesty in the Bible.  Honesty that could alienate.  The Gentile woman begging for her daughter's healing and then being compared to the dogs who eat scraps from the table...and yet she still has faith to be honest with Jesus (Mark 7:24-30).  The Samaritan woman who shouted throughout the town about what Jesus knew regarding her life (John 4:1-30).  The woman who dared to go into a crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus' robe.  And then when she was confronted about it, she was honest before Jesus AND the large crowd (Mark 5:21-34; Luke 8:43-48).
"The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed." (Luke 8:47)

What about the disciples in Acts, who spread the Good News while being mocked, ridiculed for being honest and real with people? 

Honesty is difficult.  It is risky.  But it is life changing and can loose the bonds which hold me captive.  To be honest and real first with God, after all He already knows it all, and then to allow Him to work on those areas that need refinement.  Then I need to be honest and transparent with others because that will produce a healthy life lived for Him, where His glory can shine through. 

In each of the examples, with the women and the disciples, God got the glory.  His name was praised.  People came to know Him because of the brutal honesty of the women and the disciples.  Transparency can create a beautiful testimony of a life lived only for Him. 

So instead of hiding behind my walls and facade of "I'm ok", I need to begin to be real with honest, and share my struggles and share the pain so that His healing can occur and He can have the glory.

"I'd been hurt and scarred and banged around a bit in the past year, but God was using all those things to help me become real.  My stuffing was coming out because I'd been loved to tatters.  I was coming to understand that what it means to be real is to love and be loved until there is nothing left.  And when there's nothing left, and we feel we're all in pieces, God begins to make us whole.  He makes us real.  His love sets us free and transforms us."
~Katie Davis

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Week Two: Contradictions of the Heart

”If I had to summarize in one word my first weeks and months in Uganda, it would be contradiction...My life - especially my emotions - hung in the balance between absolutely loving my new life in Uganda and battling severe loneliness."
~Katie Davis

 I feel the same.  I love this adventure God has me on in Brazil.  I love the smell of the rain, the house-rattling thunder, the lightening that lights up the night sky, the bloom of flowers I've only seen in stores, the red dirt that cakes the bottom of my shoes - and my feet, the sound of exotic birds, the smell of fresh baked bread on my morning walk to work, the chatter of a foreign language and the sound of little children praising God.

All of this brings joy to my heart.  But I have to admit I get lonely.  Yes, I am making wonderful connections with people here and forming new friendships.  But no one knows my past, no one knows what might trigger a memory that will bring tears to my eyes.  And it's hard to attempt to explain it to people so that they understand the complicated connection of it all.  I long to just sit with an old friend, coffee in our hands, and cry (which I don't like doing in the first place!) and have them understand the complicated emotions of it all with little to no explanation needed.

"During my early days here, I was learning so much - everything from how to eat foods I'd never seen before to how to communicate through hand signals and facial expressions with people whose language I did not know.  My horizons were being expanded in the most amazing ways; my perspectives were changing every day; and my faith was being challenged and stretched.  All of this was so exciting to me.  I didn't want to admit that, in the midst of such a wonderful and invigorating experience, I sometimes felt tangible pangs of loneliness when I thought about how many miles away I was from the people I loved."
~Katie Davis

Contradiction of the heart.  Difficult to understand or explain to anyone.  But it's there.  Raw emotion of a life being flipped upside down by God.
"I could praise God with all my joyful heart and then later pour out my heart to Him with frustration and weeping when no one could hear."
~Katie Davis

I am so thankful for this opportunity to be part of a school that is sharing the message of Jesus with children and families from all over the world.  At times it simply feels like I am teaching in the U.S., but then a teacher asks me about how to reach a child in their class who is from Tanzania - and who is still learning English - when I realize that I am not teaching in the U.S.  There are so many underlying factors teaching children from all over the world that I forget to stop and consider it all.  On top of having to learn and study their academics, these kids are also having to learn a new language..sometimes two if they don't speak English, they want desperately to make new friends and fit in without losing who they are and where they come from, and they may long for something of comfort from home.  And it's then that I realize that all the complicated, contradictory emotions I am feeling, these kids go through them too. 
"I thought of how, after a long, hard day in my previous life, I would have crashed on the couch with a pint of ice cream, a good sappy movie, and my closest girlfriends.  Here at the end of a long, hard day, there was nothing to do but cry out to Jesus for the strength to go on."
~Katie Davis

And that's the same for me, and for some of these kiddos here.  When we don't have the strength or energy to keep trying at this new normal for us....we need to turn to the One who understands it all.

 The beauty of crying out to Jesus is that He understands all the complicated, contradictory emotions without a word being spoken.  He knows that I long for comfort, yet desire to be stretched so I can be used by Him.  He knows that I feel inadequate and yet also feel made for this job.  He knows I want to make a difference but don't know how.  He knows the pain of the past that haunts me and how I am challenged each day to lay it down and follow the calling He placed upon my heart.  He knows it weaknesses, my desires, my fears, my hopes - and He keeps reminding me that in all of it...He is my strength, He is my refuge.  And there's no contradiction in that!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Change is challenging

As I sit here and eat a coconut cookie (happy find in Brasil!), I am just pondering all the changes that I've been through in the last 11 days. Wait!!!  (Cookie frozen in mid-air to my mouth!)  Has it really only been 11 days???!!!  Sure feels like a lot longer than that!  Eleven days is like a short vacation to see family in California or Christmas Break.

In 11 days, I've moved from the states to a country I had never been to.  Started at a job that had no foundation to start from.  Ventured to Walmart for a skillet and real butter.  Yes, I cook with real butter.  And it's delicious.  Don't fault me.  That's why I walk a mile to work.  For that butter, or that slice of bread.  Justification done thankyouverymuch.  Ordered pão de queijo on my own.  Seen a movie with Portuguese subtitles.  Visited a McDonald's, Brazilian buffet, and a Mexican restaurant (not all at once...and hey...we like food out here! I think I'll toast that with another cookie).  Started a Portuguese class.  And settled into a routine at home and work.  In all of this, it is easy to try to rely upon my own strengths and skills, but what I am finding is that with all of this change, I am having to rely upon God even more. 

I may seem like I can handle all of this, but really, emotionally I am tired.  I don't handle change all that well to begin with.  So now throw all of this new stuff at me, not to include the difference in language and constant dependence upon others to translate for me, I'm now hitting that point of asking "what have I done?!"

And to top it off, I have lived the life of luxury and had instant communication access to any one of my friends and family members for the last number of years...but now, I only have internet at work.  And let's face it....I'm so busy doing my job that I don't take advantage of the quick email or facebook stalking like I used to.  So instead of instant internet gratification, I have five-minute snippets before or after work, or on the rare breaks I can find.  Even calling family has it's challenges with the time difference.   My roommate and I were even so internet/connection deprived that we were going to venture to work on Sunday but the power was out at the school (common occurrence during storms here). 

Life without the constant connection to people has opened my eyes up to how much time I spent just facestalking browsing facebook, gazing at pintrest, sending random ridiculous text messages to Alisha (just so you know Alisha....I miss that so very very much!!), reading the news, etc. etc. etc.

I began to rely upon those connections.  Began to rely upon people.  Along the way, I lost my reliance upon God.  And now, faced with all of these changes and the inability to call friends up right away and talk it all through or to vent through a series of text messages, I am re-learning to depend upon God.  Honestly, it's hard...but it shouldn't be.  It should be something that I do all the time, in every situation and circumstance.  But I tend to be very independent and I choose to rely upon myself and others instead of the One who created me.  So what does God do to get my attention?  Put me in those places that are so uncomfortable, with no way of reaching out to those who are familiar, all so that I will turn to Him and rely upon Him.  I'm learning this lesson the hard way.  It's painful and it's a slow process with me, but I'm learning. 

Maybe by the time we have internet set up at home, I will have learned this process and the need for instant communication gratification will have subsided and I won't feel the need for it as much.  Will I still want it...probably, yes....but my prayer is that I will not depend upon it to fill that void.  That instead I will depend upon God and choose Him as my refuge and my strength through all of these changes and challenges.