Hitting the Road Again

Well, hitting the skies as well, if you want to get technical.

It’s 3 AM, and there are 4 reasons I am still up:

  1. Packing.
  2. Cleaning bedroom and freezer.
  3. Too much 60% dark chocolate (that was an attempt to stay alert and get back to work packing after evening church, but I miscalculated).
  4. Waiting for supper/breakfast to cook.
  5. To write to all of you!

Thankfully, my luggage is finally all assembled.  It consists of one 30-kilo suitcase, which is coming with me, and one 17-kilo cardboard box, which I’m taking to the post office first thing in the morning.  According to their website, it should cost less than 100 Reais to mail, which is less than 25 dollars with the current exchange rate.  I was shocked to find out how cheap it would be.  Seems too good to be true, but we shall see in the morning.

That would be over 37 pounds, which I have a feeling would cost several arms and legs to mail from state to state in the US.

Anyway, here are the traveling plans for tomorrow.

  1.  Taxi from the Mission HQ to the airport.
  2. Airplane from Manaus to Porto Velho.  (90-minute flight)
  3. Taxi from the airport to the bus terminal.
  4. Bus from Porto Velho to Jí-Parana.   (6 hours or so)
  5. Car from the bus station to the Mission Base.

Missionaries who live at the base, Adilton and Vilma, are going to be at the bus station to pick me up.  I met them at Conference a few weeks ago and they are really sweet.  There are other missionaries living there who I am really excited to meet as well, one couple who are almost legendary within our mission.

I’m looking forward to a low-key day with Jesus tomorrow.  He is the best traveling buddy ever, by the way.  Along with some Bible-reading, prayer, and preparing my heart for this next phase of life, I snagged three free leftover magazines from the mission, to catch up on news from different people groups and missionaries.  Of course, I may end up napping as well, especially in the bus.  Brazilian buses are much nicer and comfier than Greyhound.

Here is a Google Maps depiction of my trip.  Remember that the first segment is by airplane, however, which does take kilometers off the trip.  Feel free to convert to miles if you wish.  Notice that you can see almost all of Brazil (small corners chopped off both top and bottom) yet the would-be 19 hours car-trip is only a small distance compared to its total area.  Brazil is one big country, friends!  Good thing Seward bought Alaska, or they would have us beat for size.

map of trip

Well, I shall go and eat, and then try to quiet my body enough to sleep for three hours.  Aside from the chocolate, my excitement levels are keeping me going as well.  Jí-Parana is one step closer to you-know-what and you-know-who!

Guess what?!?

Starting very soon, I get to start learning a new language!  And experiencing a new culture!  Aaahhh!  That makes me so super-excited!  To hear musical-tone words, make friends, push my brain past its linguistic limits, see the world differently, experience God in new ways.  You have no idea.  It feels almost like getting and giving Christmas presents, or seeing a friend who lives faraway, or winning a big contest.

Actually, it’s more like the feeling I used to have right before jumping off a huge cliff on Grace Island, Bermuda.  My memory says it was 30 feet high, but that number could be off.  As a camp counselor for teens, I couldn’t act scared, of course.  Especially since I was in charge of the youngest girls’ cabin; many of them needed reassurance and a courageous example to follow.

But why was it that even after many times cliff-jumping that summer, the adrenaline rush always came?  A trace of genuine fear dilated my eyes and quickened my pulse right before each run or standing jump.  It was only a leap, a 30-foot drop, and a couple seconds to the water, deep, warm, and blue.  Perfectly safe for anyone who can swim.

That little momentary fear, however, was greatly overshadowed by the fun and thrill and delight, especially when jumping with some of my campers.  It was totally worth it, and something I would do again tomorrow if given the chance.

Learning Zoró will be totally worth it as well.  It feels like I’m on the brink of something incredible that I will absolutely love, but that requires a leap of faith and trust.  The goal is becoming part of the Zoró culture through immersion.  It’s not so much “learning the language,” but “living the language.”  This is a process which involves challenge and hard work and losing one’s identity.  Plunging into that kind of unknown is understandably just a tiny bit scary.

Yet as my eyes widen in anticipation and my pulse literally quickens just writing about it, wondering if I will really have the courage to push my feet off the firm ground and off the edge, my hands fly to my mouth and I shiver with delight.  Because at the bottom of this huge cliff are the deep waters of God’s faithfulness, the warm waters of new friendships, the blue waters of culture and beauty.  And just as during my experience of learning Portuguese and being “Brazilian-ized”, there will be days full of laughter and fun and unexpected blessings and relationships and ministry.

The cliff awaits.  Jesus is right beside me.  Another thrilling adventure is about to begin.  And I wouldn’t miss out on it for anything.

A Tale of Two Valentines

Once upon a time, in a hot and humid land faraway, there was a young lady who had completely forgotten that today is Valentines Day.  It was me, and such ignorance is explainable, because Brazil’s holiday of love takes place in June, not February, and 95-degree weather makes it hard to remember which month it is.

However, during the announcements at church this morning, none of which applied to me, I let my mind wander, and one of the rabbit trails it took somehow reached the date of February 14th and its significance.  This resulted in contemplation of my family, God’s love, and a delicious chocolate cake I made on Monday for a couple single girlfriends, which we had decided could be our early Valentine’s Day chocolate treat.  After a couple minutes, however, the announcements were over, so my attention returned to the songs and message, which were related to the three types of death, judgment, the return of Christ, and the end times.  Although God’s love can certainly be seen in those topics, there weren’t any warm fuzzies.

Sidenote:  To anyone from Bethel Church of the Nazarene (or any church), I am by no means endorsing the habit of not paying attention during announcements at your home church.  I do read the bulletin and pay attention to Mark each Sunday when at our church, because he has important things to say, which apply to me, and everyone else in attendance, and should be listened to carefully.  However, I will only be attending church in Manaus for one more week before leaving, so there is not enough time to get involved in ministry or Bible studies or small groups.

Now back to our tale.  After arriving from church, I checked to see if the internet had started working again after being on strike yesterday.  On Facebook, a smile jumped onto my face when I saw that my youngest brother had sent me a valentine.  It was a small red package tied with a bow, which unwrapped itself when clicked upon, to reveal a big thumbs-up.  It made me feel so special that he had thought of me, even from so far away, and taken initiative to show he loves me.   That was Valentine Number 1.

Late in the afternoon, when finding out about the opportunity to visit a friend in the hospital, I when to the grocery store to pick up some fresh fruit for her, since she has been hungry in between
meals.  Since my plan had been to stay here at the mission house, I wasn’t supposed to be walking down the main street at all.  But it’s a good thing circumstances changed those plans, because that’s where and when Valentine Number 2 was sent.

Walking past, in the opposite direction, was a Brazilian man wearing a shirallen-maye_ylnf-t_proof_-_Copyjht almost exactly like the one to the right.  The only differences were that the gray letters were black, and the font just a bit smaller.  And I just knew that this was no coincidence, but a valentine from my loving Heavenly Father.  It made me feel so special that He had thought of me, and taken initiative to show He loves me and is never far away.

I don’t know whose love the shirt-wearer was thinking of, if he even speaks English and knows what the words mean, but the only real Never-Failing Love is God’s.  And a song I love started playing in my mind and heart, renewing my love for God and the confidence I have in His love for me.

The internet connection isn’t strong enough to find and post a video, but here are the lyrics for you:

One Thing Remains, by Brian Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, Christa Black Gifford

© 2010 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP) /Mercy Vineyard Publishing (ASCAP) (adm. by Music Services)/Christajoy Music (BMI) (Admin by Bethel Music Publishing).

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains

Your love never fails, never gives up
never runs out on me

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains.

Your love never fails, never gives up
never runs out on me

In death, In life, I’m confident and
Covered by, the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there’s nothing that
Can separate my heart from Your great love

Your love never fails, never gives up
never runs out on me

Sp as I head into wild adventures and uncharted waters, God reminds me that whatever lies ahead, one thing remains.  I may get exhausted, or discouraged, or sick, or struggle with learning a third language, or have a hard time making friends in the village, but God’s love will never fail, never give up, and never run out on me.  He loves me, and wants to love others through me with this same unfailing love.  But for that to happen, for God to use me at all, I must first be confident and secure in His love.  And how could I not know for a fact that God loves me, when He sends me an English love note, walking down a street in Brazil, on Valentines Day?

And, my friend, may I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day all the way from Brazil?  Remember that wherever you live, whatever emotions this holiday brings, and whatever you are facing, God’s love remains for you also.  His love never fails, never gives up, and will never run out on you.  So be confident in your Father’s love.

Or if that kind of love is a new or strange idea to you, please  write to me.  I would be thrilled to share with you the story of God’s unfailing love and how you can receive it.

Field Conference Pictures – January 16th-23rd

This is the third time I have tried to post pictures from Field Conference 2016, but the first time that the internet has cooperated and allowed them to upload.  Hooray!

Field Conference is an annual event for members of our missions agency.  Brazil is actually “divided” into two fields for ministry and administration purposes, so this is West Field’s Conference.  The first day is like a cross between a big family get-together and a high school reunion, with lots of excitement, laughter, hugs, stories, and comments about how much little ones have grown since last year.This year there were about 90 adult missionaries in attendance, plus all their children, and some guests.

Pastor Wagner during one of the evening services.

The keynote speaker was Pastor Wagner, who pastors a church here in the city of Manaus, but lived in São Paulo before.  I had met him there in 2009, and participated in a missions trip with his daughter and son in 2010, and he used to be a seminary professor where my Brazilian dad is taking classes.  Throughout the conference, Pastor Wagner spoke on the topic of “The Sufficiency of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.”  It was very insightful, Biblical, and challenging.

“Basic Bible Teaching” workshop geared toward those of us in village ministry.
Morning class on January 22nd.

Included in the package deal this year, after the official Conference and held at the same location, was a four-day workshop on Basic Bible Teaching.  One of the many wonderful things about our agency is that they provide ongoing, practical training for their missionaries, so that we have as many tools as possible to be effective and current in ministry.

Luciene, a good friend from Shekinah, and her sweet baby Esther.

In between sessions, meals, services and other planned activities, there is enough downtime to talk with friends and meet new people.  This year it was a blessing for me to spend time with a few really good friends I had made while at the Missionary Training Center.  A couple ladies were not only friends, but prayer partners, so we spent time talking to each other (of course!), but also talking to the Lord together.  And I spent as much time as I could holding or playing with my friends’ little ones also, who had all grown lots since last time seeing them!

Lunchtime in the dining hall!
Waiting in line to get food is also an opportunity for conversations and taking pictures.
Afternoon study group:  Hands-on practice of what we learned in the morning.
Vilma and Anna, who serve with their families a few hours from where I’ll be living.
Walking Together – ladies’ tea, a time of encouragement and laughter and fellowship.

One special, highly-anticipated part of Conference is the ladies’ time, an afternoon set aside for us to be together, dress up, take pictures, and talk, while enjoying touches of beauty, attention to detail, yummy homemade treats, laughter, and encouragement from God’s Word shared by some of our sisters, missionaries who are serving in different villages, not just giving and teaching, but also learning from God themselves.

So that gives you a glimpse of what the Field Conference/Workshop was like.  If the internet continues working well, I will upload more pictures from the week afterwards to post tomorrow or Wednesday.  Hope you are having a great week!