We sit in a pavilion, with a slanted tin roof covered by thatch. Three sides are completely open, with the fourth side, where the platform is, walled by thatch strung between poles, forming an attractive design of triangles and rectangles. The platform is high, the front covered only by thatch.
The only words I understand are proper names from the Bible, which apparently have been borrowed directly from Portuguese. Other than that, my ears and brain are hammered by unknown sound combinations, nasal and tonal, trying to enter. But my ears don’t even know how to process these sounds yet, and the varying musical tones on which words ride gently up and down.
Distractions are many during the one and a half hours of teaching:
- A four or five-year-old child wanders into the pavilion from the front, dragging a little bedraggled suitcase behind.
- A couple village dogs quietly invade the worship area, but their stench gives them away.
- Villagers scold the dogs sharply with mono-syllabic intonations and animated gestures, shooing them out.
- Whistling comes from the nearby hammock-pavilion. In this language whistling isn’t just music, it is conversation.
- Five or six chickens walk around the open areas of the pavilion, occasionally clucking. One poops near the platform.
None of these things would happen back at Bethel Church of the Nazarene. They wouldn’t happen at my Brazilian church in São Paulo either. Nevertheless, an amazing realization overwhelms my heart. This place is where I am supposed to be. And these people, and their relatives in the other villages, are the ones I am supposed to do life with. And even though I have never been anywhere like this and don’t really know what is going on, none of it is strange or foreign or shocking or overwhelming. It is just everyday life here.
But how can I already feel like I belong? Why does this scene seem so familiar and homey? How can such unusual situations appear so normal? The answer to those questions turned into five paragraphs, so I will save it for tomorrow. Make sure to come back!