Friday, September 8, 2017

Portuguese Encounter

Portuguese is a slippery thing. It’s hard to get a hold of. It’s even harder to keep a hold of. And once you give up on trying, it will slip into all your Spanish and even your English if you’re not careful. But it is also a blessing in teaching humility. Daily.

The dance team is an important part of the worship team. That's me playing the piano.
I don't know any of the songs. 

I have now been in Brasilia for exactly four weeks, but I’ve been carrying around a story that I’ve wanted to share with you for the past three weeks so I’m going to share it even though it’s not recent. I’m also going to type entirely in run-on sentences so you can get a peek into my grammatical chaos.

First, let me just say that I am alive and doing well. I’m living with a friend and her mom, eating three delicious meals a day, and slowly figuring out how the public transportation works. My basic needs have been miraculously covered, so thank you for your prayers. I’ve been very busy with two hours of Portuguese classes every day, six seminary classes a week, and lots of preparations for our first missionaries that are arriving for training in November. Between church events and seminary classes, I’ve met lots of great people and have made many many friends. God is just too generous.

Ivy and me on the metro with an awesome photo bomber.
I'm staying with Ivy and her mom while I'm getting settled.

There have been plenty of hiccups along the way. The most serious one being that the support family that was supposed to live with the missionaries in Anapolis backed out for personal reasons a couple weeks ago. We already have three more support families signed up for interviews in October, but that means that the approved family will be rushed to get fundraised and get to Brasilia for the training that begins in January.

Super sly photo of Ecclesiastical History 1 and new friends, Leni and Samira.
Sometimes we need pizza after class. It's important. 

Anyway, enough about work. The church where we are doing our training (Central Church of the Nazarene) has Encounter retreats every three months just like all our Extreme churches. They are a time for new believers to learn more about who God is and spend intentional time with Him. I happened to arrive in Brasilia one week before an Encounter and was able to participate. After a week of hearing only Portuguese, I was already able to understand the majority of what was spoken, but I couldn’t speak hardly anything. That was just fine at the Encounter, because once we got there we were asked to remain silent for the whole weekend so that everyone could focus solely on God. It was a great time with lots of worship and learning. We had assigned seats, so I sat next to the same teenage girl all weekend. I learned somethings about her and her life just by watching when she would raise her hand in response to a question and which classes and topics seemed to affect her the most. Her notebook had her name on it: Hagda. In one of the sessions, we were asked to hold hands while we sang. Afterward, I gave her a hug and she asked me where I was from. That was our only real interaction until the end of the retreat.

Out to dinner with Ivy, Denise, and Lucas.

The second to last session was about baptism. At the end, we were all given a form to fill out to either be baptized or become a member of the church if we had already been baptized. Hagda didn’t fill out her form. When someone came to collect it, they asked why she didn’t want to be baptized. She said she didn’t feel ready. Then her leader came over, the friend who had been discipling her. Hagda repeated that she didn’t feel ready, and she didn’t know why. She started to cry. The leader tried to console her, reminding her that if she had accepted Jesus as Lord of her life then she was ready for baptism. Hagda just kept repeating that she wasn’t ready.

When your Old Testament professor is a doctor and has handwriting to match.
And also she speaks a different language. How am I supposed to take notes on that??

The last session began. It was about the Holy Spirit. I continued to pray for Hagda, that God would confirm His love in her. From an earlier session, I knew that she had struggled with depression. I started feeling like there were things in her past that she hadn’t given to God. Things she hadn’t accepted forgiveness for. And things others had done to her that she hadn’t forgiven. I prayed that God would reveal these things to her and her leaders, and use me if necessary. When the session ended, we had a time of prayer and anointing. We moved the chairs and spread out all over the room. The leaders walked around and prayed over each of us. After someone prayed for me, I slipped away to the bathroom. I didn’t want get involved in something I didn’t fully understand, but I also felt that God had clearly shown me what this girl needed. I walked back into the meeting room and saw Hagda off to the side, praying by herself. I went over to her, placed my hand on her head, and began praying aloud in Portuguese as best as I could. It didn’t go very well. I kept wincing and losing my train of thought every time I heard a Spanish word slip out. I prayed that God would confirm in her that she was completely forgiven, purified, and His daughter. I prayed that God would give her the ability to forgive those who had hurt her, and that He would free her from anger and bitterness. Eventually, I completely ran out of words. I said amen and she hugged me. She said a lot of sweet things I couldn’t understand. I got my courage up again and told her firmly, “You’re right. God is telling you that you aren’t ready to be baptized right now, but when you are ready, you’ll obey and get baptized, right?” She nodded her head right as her mom walked up to us, and I walked away.

We all got on buses and returned to the church. During the service, 25 women were baptized, including Hagda and her mom.

These were all the Encounter participants. The men's Encounter was the following weekend. 

After the service, I found Hagda and got to meet her two sisters. They asked all the normal questions of where I was from and what I was doing in Brasilia. I stumbled through some answers and explained that I am from the states and had arrived in Brasilia a week ago. Hagda looked completely shocked. “You’ve only been here a week? And you don’t speak Portuguese?” “I speak Spanish, so I understand Portuguese, but I’m still learning how to speak it.” The family nodded in understanding, but Hagda still looked bewildered. I didn’t think about it until later, but now the only explanation I have for her reaction is the God was doing some divine interpreting while I prayed with her at the retreat. How else would she not have known that I clearly don’t speak Portuguese??

I’m trusting that God has many more miracles He wants to perform as we move forward. I’m definitely being forced into a place of complete dependence. Yesterday morning, I had an hour long meeting in Spanish followed by an hour long meeting in English and a two-hour Portuguese class. This morning I began with Portuguese class, wrote a three-page report in Spanish, and am now finishing up a blog in English. And I wonder why I’m so tired all the time. Fortunately, tomorrow is Brazil’s Independence Day and a holiday from classes. I’m already planning on skipping the parade and sleeping in.

Hagda's baptism photo

Me with Hagda's family after the service