From the Mouths of Little Friends

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Christmas Cookie Making Night!

UNFORESEEN CHALLENGES OF SINGLENESS

One day in the village, while I was still living with my coworkers, the girls were planning an imaginary play session.  Sidenote: their imaginations are so active, that it is often hard to keep up with which character they are impersonating, resulting in protests such as, “I’m not Isadora!  I’m Maria!” (or Ana or Elsa or John or Abbi or Jubilee or some other movie or book or real-life personality).  Obviously their identities should be obvious to everyone, right?  They know who they are pretending to be, after all.  My own character-guessing skills are improving, slowly but surely.  At least I can list off the top four imaginary roles of choice for each girl and always know when Lorena is Mahi, her favorite cat character.

On this occasion, however, Isadora was casting herself in the new role of Julia, a two-year-old daughter of missionary friends who had visited us the previous week.  Lorena wanted to be another little girl, so they needed someone else to be Misa, Julia’s mommy.

Lorena suggested that I be Misa, to which Isadora immediately argued,

“But Tia Paulette can’t be Misa!  She doesn’t have a husband!” As I tried not to laugh out loud, Lorena acquiesced to Isadora, realized the watertight logic in her firm objection.

What a letdown.  Never realized my single status could be so limiting, even affecting which roles are available to me when playing with three-year-olds.

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Those cookies do look yummy!

THE CUCUMBER FLUENCY TEST

As I made lunch, Isadora wandered into the kitchen to see if she could coax me into giving her bits of something to eat before the meal was served.  As she has learned from previous experience, that isn’t very hard to do, as long as she asks politely, instead of demanding.

So I offered her a big fat cucumber stick, telling her “In English, this is a cucumber.  Can you say cucumber?”

“Cucumber!” she repeated, a big grin showing her delight in learning a new word.

“Good job!  You said that just right,” as I handed her the desired pre-lunch snack.

“Yup!  And that means…that I know how to speak English!”

After further reflection on my own language learning endeavors, and a thorough testing of current skills, according to the above standards, I am pleased to announce to all of you that…I already know how to speak Neno!  Our language consultant may not agree with Isadora’s evaluation methods, however, so I intend to keep studying and practicing, just in case.

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Lorena, the beet lover.                               Isadora, the brownie batter licker.

All Here

            (journal entry from the village, early October 2016)

It’s 6:30 AM, early by many standards, yet I feel like I’m running way behind schedule.  I’ve already made coffee, fried eggs, peeled and boiled manioc root, set aside a bit of food for the cat (my coworkers are in the city for a few days so I’m taking care of their new pet), and various other little tasks.

Thinking back to life as it was three years ago, I loved my job as a home base visitor for Head Start, but don’t remember waking up every day feeling like I just couldn’t wait for work to start.  Of course at 6:30, I was usually out forcing myself to jog or having a blast ice skating.  But my new job is one I love even more, one I dream of doing well at and giving 100% to, not because there is a boss looking over my shoulder, but for Jesus!  And the motivation is not to meet demanding performance standards (although He does see everything), but because I love Him with all my heart.  I want to work, serve, love and live well, because He died and is worthy to receive the glory of His suffering.  Actually, when it comes right down to it, I don’t even have to DO this job.  I just need to rest in Jesus, trust in Him and follow His direction, depending on Him to do HIS work in and through me.

So back to today.  I can’t wait to get out of the house.  I just want to go and know, see and be, hear and taste, experience and live this culture with these friends.

This organic, jungle-grown, GMO-free manioc root is delicious and buttery, enhanced by a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and oregano, yet it’s hard to choke down in my excitement to get on with the day.  Who cares if this is my 64th day in this little Amazon village?  I want to follow the advice from a professor in one of our classes in the training institute.

Live like every day is your first day in the village.

I don’t remember if he explained exactly what that meant, but I interpreted it this way –

Live every day with excitement, joy, and enthusiasm, refusing to miss out on the opportunities that surround you.  Live every day for Jesus, by His grace, remembering that He is the one who called you and equipped you.  He is the one who will sustain you and be glorified in you.  Be of good cheer!  He has overcome the world and He is with you always.  Jesus is building His church in every corner of this world, and you get to be part of that!

As long as we remember these things, my friends, every day is an exciting adventure.  Whether our journey with Christ takes us to a jungle village, a bustling city, or the hometown where we grew up, the same truths and principles apply.

As for me, specifically, though, will you please pray that I will not just write these words but act on them, depending on God’s strength alone?  I am not enough for these things, but HE is.  Pray that I will live every day like it is my first day here, with these wonderful people, serving our awesome God!

Wherever you are, be all there.  Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.   – Jim Elliot, missionary to the Waorani people in Ecuador –

Restaurant: Impossible [Life: Impossible]

POST FROM THE PAST…written on June 9, 2012, and hidden away on a document until now. 

On the rare occasions my sister and I have the chance to watch television together we turn to The Food Network.  Among our favorite shows are Chopped, Iron Chef America, and Restaurant: Impossible.  In this last one, a successful, famous chef visits a failing restaurant, and, with only ten thousand dollars, revamps it in two or three days, reopening with a new look, new menu, new procedures.

On a show we watched last weekend, the dining room was completely destroyed – old-fashioned, uncomfortable benches torn apart and shelves yanked off walls.  The owners watched with pained expressions – they had built those booths and shelves with care, designing their restaurant in a way they thought attractive, useful, and customer-friendly.  But guess what?  The restaurant was failing big-time.

As the chef and his team quickly dismantled the dining room, one of the owners commented, “I guess sometimes you’ve gotta break something before you can fix it.” 

His words shot like an arrow to the bulls-eye of my heart, compelling me to examine things in a new way.

Perhaps my life is like that restaurant.  For years I have worked to build into my life things that I consider attractive, useful, and glorifying to God.  Two years ago, all seemed to be going okay, even wonderfully.  But of course, the Christian life isn’t like a restaurant, where success is measured by dinners served or tickets rung through the register.  Our success is not based on external appearances or results, but only by God, who sees our hearts, and the big picture.

So perhaps, despite appearances, my life was failing.  Or perhaps it wasn’t glorifying God in the way He desired.  Or perhaps it was catering to the wrong crowd.  Whatever the case, God stepped in.  He started tearing things apart – dreams, ministry career plans, health, security, relationships.  And I watched, with tears and questions and frustration, flinching at the pain of destruction.

But you want to know something wonderful about God?  He doesn’t destroy for the sake of destruction.  He doesn’t hurt us for the purpose of causing pain.  God destroys in order to build something more beautiful someday.  He allows hurt to bring about His healing.

Today, these words are easy to write.  But yesterday, they were not easy to live out.  Tomorrow it may be a struggle even to believe them.  Since the “life remodeling” began, I must confess that I have often resisted God’s work.  He tears apart another booth as I protest, “But God!  I built that myself!  It looked pretty good.  Do you really have something better to put in that empty space?”

Reading that last question, I wince at the arrogance.  Who am I to tell God how to handle things?  Who am I to ask if He knows what He is doing and if His plans are good?  Surrendering control of my life to Him years ago means He is in charge – the Owner and Manager.

There may be more breaking ahead.  Do I look forward to it?  Honestly, no.  However, if God thinks something in me (or even my whole life-restaurant) needs fixing, that’s His call.

And “I guess sometimes [God’s] gotta break some[one] before [He] can fix [them].” 

How about you?  Is God the Owner and Manager of your life?  Do you trust that He knows what He is doing, and that what might seem like unwarranted pain and destruction is part of His good plan?  Are you confident that even though the result might not look like what you imagined, God wants to make your life a success by Kingdom standards, for His glory?

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

…being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.  Ephesians 1:11b, 12

Before God can use a man greatly He must wound him deeply.  Oswald Chambers

When God is in charge of our lives, we can be certain that

  • His work is good.
  • He will finish what He started.
  • The outcome will be gloriously better than anything we could do on our own.

The impossible turned into reality.  Transformation.  Newness of life.  Glory.

Remembering Rainbows and Counting Grains of Sand

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It was a perfect rainbow – brilliant and glowing, descending in a graceful curve to where it entered the puffy cumulus clouds.  I gasped in wonder, delighting in the surprising novelty of seeing a rainbow from above.  But within seconds the rainbow disappeared, as our plane was engulfed by misty greyish-white clouds.  All that was left was a memory of the beautiful and brief image.

Rainbows aren’t just rainbows, you know. 

The first rainbow was placed in the clouds by God after the worldwide flood, a visual reminder of the covenant God made that day, to never flood the whole earth again.  God said that He would look at the rainbow and remember His promise to Noah, his children, and all future generations.  Read about it here.

Rainbows remind me not just of that very important promise, but of all the other promises God has made in the Bible.  He is a Covenant-Making God, a Promise-Speaking God.  And what God says, He does.  Oh, sometimes it takes longer than we wish or imagine.  But someday, every single promise will become reality.

This month, I read Counting Grains of Sand, by Natasha Metzler, a friend from upstate New York.  It was published just last week, and I want to recommend it to as many people as possible.  Natasha’s book is a rainbow, a brilliant, glowing reminder of the promises of God.  Please don’t think that it is all beautiful and joyful and heavenly, though, oh no.

This book is honest about the clouds, too – the black storm clouds that for a time, swallowed up her view of God’s promises.  Her journey with Christ has included very dark seasons, where promises seemed implausible, where dreams seemed impossible, where even God Himself seemed engulfed in clouds so heavy they might never lift.  Natasha writes truthfully and transparently of her struggles with infertility, depression, stress, loss, grief, shattered dreams, and unfulfilled hopes.  She shares how even while we are in the midst of trials, God commands us to remember who He is and what He has done, both on the pages of Scripture and in our lives.

Have you ever found yourself in moments or seasons or years of darkness, doubt, pain, fear or despair?  Have you ever wandered in a spiritual or emotional wilderness?  Have you ever felt like you were in a battle just to believe when all hope seemed gone?  Have you struggled to remember that God has never left your side and never will?

I have. 

And I wish that I had been able to read Counting Grains of Sand right then.

Because Natasha courageously and faithfully points her readers past the pain, challengint us to remember and cling to the promises and faithfulness of God.  Then she goes further, pointing past the promises to Jesus Himself, Emmanuel, God with us.   Natasha tells stories of how Jesus met her, transformed her and blessed her in ways she could not have imagined.  Despite emotions and circumstances, she chose to trust and believe our loving Heavenly Father and His perfect plan.  Natasha’s words paint glory-portraits and redemption-pictures that glow more brightly than any rainbow.

Counting Grains of Sand declares truth, powerful truth straight from the pages of Scripture in ways that just may challenge your heart and  open your eyes as they did mine.  Reflections about the story of Abraham and Sarah, in all its agony and triumph, bring us face-to-face with profound insights about faith, waiting, promises, and who God is.

Please buy  this book today, friend.  It is worth much more than the few dollars it costs.  It is available right here as an e-book, a Kindle book, or a paperback.

As you read it, I pray that you will see, perhaps a bit more clearly or deeply than before, the wondrous ways of our pain-redeeming, promise-keeping God.  Remember that He is a loving Heavenly Father.  He sees your struggles, hurt and tears.  He is faithful, and He cares, specifically and deeply, for you. 

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.   Jeremiah 17:7

Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.  Psalm 130:7

“On the Journey with Christ”

That is the theme of our mission’s field conference this year.  During the conference, some of my posts will be compiled from notes taken during the sessions.  Although I won’t have much time to write or edit, hopefully the bits and pieces of teaching and reflection shared here will be an encouragement in your journey.

A journey has 3 parts.

  1. beginning
  2. middle
  3. end

Journeys can be short, long, desired, planned, unexpected.  Sometimes they are not by our own choice.

Every journey has some motivation, some purpose or driving force behind it.

Journeys require preparation.

We can apply all of this to our journeys as believers.  It is worthwhile to look back at those who went before us in journeying with Christ.  This includes the founders of our specific mission agency, other missionaries, and also the many men and women of faith who served God in other ways, starting with Bible characters up until believers of today.

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.  Hebrews 13:7

  • Whose faith will I follow?
  • How can I model my journey after theirs?
  • What did they value?
  • What did they take with them?
  • What did they leave behind?
  • How did they face difficulties?
  • Who will go with me on the journey?
  • What can I learn on the journey?

Jesus takes each one of us on our own personal journey with Him.  It will be different and unique for each child of God.  Yet, for every person who believes in Jesus Christ alone as their Saviour from sin, the end of this journey is the same.  Our final and eternal destination is guaranteed, promised, reserved for us.

…and so shall we ever be with the Lord.   1 Thessalonians 4:1

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.    – Jesus – (in John 14:2,3)

The Beginning of Forever

It happened three days ago, January 13th, 2017.  My paternal grandmother, Leila Mae Cross, went home to be with Jesus.  When my dad told me the news, I thanked God.  That’s what I had been praying for these last few months, you know.  It was horrible just knowing that Grandma was suffering so much, and the doctors couldn’t do anything about it.  Even though I would miss her, I longed for her to be free from pain, because I love her so much.  Every time I left the village and went to the city, one of the very first things I hurried to do was check e-mail to see if there was news about Grandma.  On Christmas Day, I thought of her and prayed for her and hoped she was celebrating in Heaven, instead of suffering in that nursing home bed.

The last few years were really hard, as she slowly lost Grandpa to Ahlzeimer’s, and eventually to death a year ago.  The last few months were harder, as cancer returned and she went to live in a care facility, eventually needing morphine every single day, just to keep the pain at barely manageable levels.  The last few weeks were the hardest – dark and difficult and painful.

Grandma suffered. so. much.  Her suffering was real, probably more excruciating and agonizing than most of us could imagine.  It must have seemed like it would never end.

But then!  Friday morning, in one moment, Grandma stepped from these shadow-lands into an eternity of endless light.  She will never face another night that seems to drag on forever.  She will never experience pain again.  She will never feel alone, for one single minute, in a hospital or care facility or anywhere else.  The dark glass is removed forever and she sees face-to-face.

She is with Jesus, the Saviour she loved and served since she was a young woman.  The motto of Grandma’s life was, “Yes, Lord,” as she walked in daily obedience to His Word and His call to missions.  I know she didn’t always obey perfectly; none of us do.  Her faith must have faltered at times; even Abraham’s and Moses’s did, but they are still listed in Hebrews 11, as men who walked by faith.  And my Grandma and Grandpa are right near the top of my personal list of heroes of the faith.

For, despite whatever sin and doubt she may have struggled with from time to time, Grandma walked with Christ.  She fought a good fight.  She finished the course.  She kept the faith.  She depended on Jesus for salvation, for the strength to live a godly life, and for all her daily needs.  By His grace, she did not grow weary in well doing.  She resisted the enemy, striving against sin.  She went into the world, preaching the Gospel in many states and provinces, showing the love of Jesus to many people of many ethnic groups.

Her journey with Christ included times of joy and times of testing.  There were ups and downs.  There were victories and defeats.  There was pleasure and pain.

And now, her journey is finally over.  Grandma has reached her final destination, her forever home, her eternal rest.

The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.  C.S. Lewis, in The Last Battle

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  Romans 8:18, 21

Glory revealed.  Glorious liberty.  We cannot begin to imagine all that this means.  But here are some of the scattered phrases that seem to express small pieces of the concept, as I reflect on what Grandma is experiencing right now.

Unshadowed joy.

Untainted wholeness.

Unhindered fellowship.

Unimaginable delight.

Uninhibited worship.  

Considering the intensity of Grandma’s sufferings during her lifetime, the glory which has now been revealed in her must be absolutely brilliant and breathtakingly beautiful.  The glory of God is shining in her and through her, and she has received the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  And although my journey is not over yet, Heaven seems so much closer.

As you ponder your own continuing journey, do you know, with absolute certainty, what your final destination will be?  Will you spend eternity in Heaven?

Jesus said, in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man cometh unto the Father except by me.”

If you have any questions about what it means to believe in Jesus, or how to know where you will go when you die, please send me an e-mail (1989cross@gmail.com).  I would love to talk with you more about these things, because like my Grandma’s was, my deepest desire is for you to know Jesus, my friend, that we might all be with Him together someday, forever.

Let me close with a promise from the Bible, made to all who have been saved, by faith in Christ alone.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.  1 Peter 1:3, 4

How to Become an Airplane Pilot in Less than Seven Minutes

Written on November 20, 2016

Flying airplanes was never a personal aspiration.  However, today, I almost became a pilot, quite by accident.  Today’s story starts where many of my days start – Mariana’s house.  She is not only a friend, but one of my best teachers.

Our morning lesson was on the topic of transportation.  I already knew how to say boat, airplane, motorcycle, car, and bicycle, but didn’t know which verbs to use for each one.  Drive, ride, fly, etcetera.  So I started asking questions and learning how to use the verbs in sentences.  As Mariana and I conversed, I asked some questions that were ridiculous, just to test the verbs and verify their correct use.  ”

“Did she go to the city by bicycle?”  That would be a long trip, unless you are my sister, so the obvious answer was no, but Mariana understood that I was just experimenting with the language.

Then she asked me if I have ridden an airplane.  She already knows that I have, so I assumed she was just testing my understanding of the language, and replied affirmatively.  I could tell by the look on her face that she was quite impressed.  Which sort of makes sense, considering that she has probably never gone farther than Ji-Pa, which is neither large nor famous.  Traveling anywhere by airplane is probably an incredible thought, especially to and from the United States!  Although one of her sisters has traveled to São Paulo and a couple other Brasilian cities by plane, so the degree of her reaction was a bit surprising.

So the linguistic wheels in my brain started turning, slowly rolling over the phrase she had used.  Uh-oh!  Did she ask whether I have TRAVELed by plane or whether I know how to FLY a plane?  Big difference.

So I reverted to Portuguese to clarify this doubt, and sure enough, Mariana had asked if I know how to FLY a plane.  And I had said yes.  Obviously.

Good thing I realized this mistake and was able to clarify the truth quickly.  Or else soon all the Neno people would have heard and spread the news that an American missionary undercover PILOT had arrived in their midst.  I can just imagine the conversations.

Yesiree folks.  We’ve got ourselves a real missionary here.  She’s from far, far away, from the United States.  She is very, extremely, exceedingly white, because there is lots of snow and cold where she comes from.  She has already learned quite a lot of words and phrases in our language and sometimes she even gets the tones right.  She makes delicious cake and bread.  She is so intelligent that she already learned how to weave our traditional mats.  She knows how to drive cars, ride bicycles, and get this – fly airplanes.  Definitely a keeper.

 

He Was No Fool

January 8.  Sixty-one years ago on this day, deep in the Ecuador jungle, five missionaries, all about my age, gave their lives for Jesus, for the Gospel, and for the salvation of the Waorani people.  It seems a fitting time to share something written in my journal back in August of 2013, with some editing.  These personal reflections will introduce you to one of my all-time heroes and give you a glimpse into my heart  and the reason I do what I do.    ecuador-5-blog-post-sitton-734x413

In reading of Jim Elliot’s life, one is brought face to face with qualities of courage, passion for Jesus Christ, sacrifice, and risk.  This year, during Vacation Bible School, I had the exciting chance to tell the story of this man who has been one of my heroes since childhood.  Hopefully God used his story to challenge and stir the children’s hearts during those four weeks.

Jim Elliot was willing to risk everything for the call of God on his life, willing to pay any cost to reach the lost with the message of the cross, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  With all his heart, Jim believed that nothing but the Gospel could transform lives, and that it could transform any heart, no matter how darkened and wicked.

For this reason, he, four other young men, and their wives, carefully constructed a secret plan, Operation Auca.  In the midst of their varied ministries in Ecuador, they sought a way to connect with an unreached tribe, the Aucas (who call themselves the Waorani), known as dangerous killers.  Despite caution, prayer, preparatory gifts, and one successful face-to-face encounter with three Waorani people, the five missionaries were speared to death only a few days after this first contact.

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It was hard not to cry as I shared this part of Jim’s story with the children, watching the shock and sadness come over their faces.  Despite my description of the Waorani tribe and the real danger these missionaries exposed themselves to, it seemed the children were expecting God to save the day with a happy ending.  But as I told them, although this seems like an awful conclusion to the story, it actually wasn’t the end at all, because our God is so great that He is able to bring good, beautiful things out of what is horrible and sad.  God’s plan and purpose for redeeming people to Himself from every nation, tribe, and language group is much bigger and more complicated than we can understand.

Through Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully giving their lives, God opened a door into this violent tribe and eventually made it possible for missionaries (including Jim’s wife and Nate’s sister) to live safely among the Waorani and share the Gospel with them.  Today there is a church there, and many Waorani people, including some of those who killed Jim and the other missionaries, are now “walking God’s trail,” as they explain it.  The story is one of miracles, redemption, and the sovereignty of God.

In addition, upon hearing of the sacrifice these five men and their families had made for the sake of the Gospel, many young men and women from the United States and all over the world were inspired to follow in their missionary footsteps.  They left the comforts and safety of home, carrying the torch of the Gospel to places where people had never heard the name of Jesus.

One challenge to me personally through telling this story was that I need to be less dependent on comfort, less concerned about safety, less preoccupied about health, less attached to possessions.  It is too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on these things and forgetting the big picture of God’s heart for the nations, forgetting those in my backyard and around the world who do not know Jesus, forgetting that I am called to go and tell them.  I must willingly and joyfully let go of such earthly, temporary treasures for the sake of the Gospel and for the love of my Saviour Jesus, out of obedience to His call.  I must give whatever it takes to gain what can never be lost – the salvation of souls.  By God’s grace, may I be willing to make any sacrifice He asks.  What an honor and privilege it would be if Jesus would use my life (or even my death if it better serves His purposes) to bring Neno people to a saving knowledge and relationship with Himself.  That treasure would last forever, far surpassing any advantages or profit or pleasures of this world.

Please take 8 minutes to watch this video until the end.  The song tells the stories of Jim Elliot and Eric Liddell, another great man of faith.  I cannot tell you how many times I have cried through this song, ever since first hearing it as a child.  One of my highest ambitions is to be the kind of “”fool” who abandons his life to walk in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  At the end of the day and the start of eternity, losing one’s life for Jesus and for the gospel is not foolish at all, but the very wisest and most profitable investment possible.

And when he [Jesus] had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?     Mark 8:34-37

Very, Very White Indeed

           (This story took place in the village, in mid-October)

There was some serious cuteness going on that afternoon as we watched the soccer match, village competing against village.  The little girl was slightly chubby, with a huge smile, top front teeth missing with little stubs of her adult teeth coming in already.  My Neno conversational skills allowed me to ask her mother the child’s name and age.  Francielle was four, of course.  I’ve got this thing for three and four-year-olds.  No matter what culture, they are the cutest and most engaging human beings ever, and they seem to jump out at me, right from the midst of any crowd.

Francielle looked at me with a winning smile and then buried her little head in my side.  My heart almost melted at such an affectionate gesture.  But she hadn’t quite figured me out, it seems.  She started rubbing my arm, up and down, her eyes wide with curiousity.  Her fingers stopped on some of my freckles and moles, then she started pinching and pulling my arm hair.  The Neno people don’t have much body hair, so apparently mine, although quite blond, was a striking novelty to this child.  The mother commented something about seeing a white person.  Maybe I am the first one this four-year-old had seen up close.

Then, before I could stop her, with one quick movement Francielle had grabbed my t-shirt and yanked it up, with the hushed comment, “Kit tere mena.”  Thanks to my great Neno teachers and the words already learned, I actually understood this phrase.

 “It’s very very white.”

Even an adult couldn’t state the facts more accurately and concisely.  True story.  If even my arms and face are still shockingly white after living in the tropics for 10 months, it’s better not to even imagine the color of body parts that are never exposed to the sun.

The curious little girl probably wanted to check to make sure all of me really was white, and not painted.  The Neno paint their skin sometimes, after all, especially arms and faces.  Maybe other people use white paint, instead of red and black.  It reminded me of how in Head Start, we teachers and home visitors encouraged children to explore and discover, trying to find answers to questions on their own.  This little girl needed no encouragement.  I can just imagine her thought process.

          “Is this lady a real human being?

           Why is she furry?

           Can I pull the fur out?

           What are the little brown spots from?

           Is she really all white, or did she just paint her arms and legs?

           I know; I’ll check under her shirt!”

So this Neno four-year-old definitely gets points for taking initiative in learning, independently finding the answers to the questions in her curious brain, and accurate observation of her environment (including the unusual creatures it contains).  But hopefully not too many other people saw what was under my shirt before I reacted by quickly pulling it back down.  The little girl had gotten her question answered, after all.  The whiteness is authentic, permanent and definitely not painted on.  “Kit tere un mena.”  (I am very, very white).  No further comment.  Maybe I should try an Amy Carmichael (19th-century Irish missionary to India) trick and dye my skin brown to blend in with the crowd.  Pretty sure she used coffee grounds, which are easy to come by around here.

Police and Thank You

Yesterday morning, I woke up and reached out to push aside the mosquito net, but found nothing, despite groping around.  “That’s strange,” I thought sleepily.  “I’ve never managed to accidentally remove the mosquito net during the night before.”  At that point, I actually opened my eyes and remembered that I was back in Ji-Parana.

I returned to the city at about 10:30 AM on Wednesday, but hit the ground running (in reality, walking very fast, because it is too hot to run much) and thus have not written until now.  The past 45 hours have been full indeed, with various activities.

  • Recovering from the trip.  I get very carsick on that dirt/mud road.  The Neno family I caught a ride with likes to travel early, so getting up at 4:30 AM didn’t help.  The neck and back muscles which had been stiff and sore for over a week, only became worse with all the jolting around on the road.  Thankfully, I am feeling well again now, however.
  • Visiting with missionaries here at the base.
  • Calling and catching up with family.  Have reached everyone in the immediate family except one brother and one grandma, but will try again today.
  • Reading e-mails.  Have not responded to any yet, but will start soon.
  • Grocery shopping.
  • Farmer’s market trip to load my backpack with fruits and vegetables, which are a welcome treat, and about half of my food intake here in the city, where we have the luxury of access and refrigeration.
  • Phone calls about an upcoming appointment, visa, chiropractor, and a surprise debit card issue.
  • Federal Police.

That last item requires more explanation than a bullet point, so here is the story of God’s hand at work on my behalf.  Since the walk to the Police is 40 minutes one way, I called ahead, as usual, to make sure I had everything that would be necessary to go in early Thursday morning.  Marcio, who is very pleasant, friendly, and patient, answered the phone, and my questions.

You may remember that the police officer who assisted me back in November was extremely grumpy, as if he had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, and made a couple negative comments about foreigners and about allowing them to live in this country.  He also gave me some incorrect information about laws and passport validity.  His disposition was similiary unhelpful back in April, and he was the one behind the desk the day I registered my address change.  All of that documentation was subsequently lost, requiring me to make an extra trip to complete the same exact process a second time.  While there is no way to know who was responsible for whatever error occured, it makes me wonder if that officer tries to make things difficult for foreigners.

Flowers and butterflies I noticed on the way to the Police, bringing to mind Matthew 6:27-34, which is not only good advice, but Jesus’ command for all of us who sometimes worry about tomorrow.  I felt the Him challenging my heart, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall [I] eat? or, What shall [I] drink?” or, Will Marcio be the officer who processes my documents? or, Will my visa renewal be successful today? “for your Heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.”)  Since God knows and cares and is able to care for these needs and all others, I have no business worrying about anything!

Either way, because of these previous experiences with the other officer, I prayed that I could deal with Marcio instead.  Imagine my relief and delight when I walked in Thursday morning, and Marcio was the only one behind the desk!  In chatting with him about his holidays, he mentioned that the other officer was actually on vacation.  Thank you, Jesus!

Marcio printed out the “boletos” for me.  This is a process I have never seen in the USA, so I am not sure if there is an English word for it.  A boleto is a document that states how much you owe to the other party, in this case 315 Reais to the Police.  I took the boletos to the bank and paid with cash.  The bank then gave me proof of payment to take back to the Police, who would then accept all of the documents and register my renewal request.

Unfortunately, in this case, the bank is about 3 blocks from the mission base, which meant a total of four 40-minute walks yesterday, just for the visa renewal.  On the bright side, it was a pleasant day for a walk, and an enjoyable time spent in prayer, listening to music, and a couple chapel messages from NBBI, the Bible school I attended.  I certainly got my exercise for the day, and on the way back, at lunchtime, bought a chicken and cheese pastel, a delicious deep-fried treat that is filling enough for a meal.  I did take advantage of the taxi bus on the trip back to the bank, to diminish the time by about 20 minutes, making it possible to return before the Police went on their 2-hour lunch break, so my afternoon would be free for other errands and phone calls.

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Finished at the Police, I paused on the way back to enjoy a bit of natural beauty in the city and thank God for His favor and faithfulness.

It all went very smoothly, with no surprises or complications, thanks to God, and to Marcio, who I believe was on duty instead of vacation yesterday by His divine scheduling.  I now have a “protocol” (legal proof of permission to be in the country) which is valid until April, when my actual card will be ready.  The card will be valid until next January, when I will visit the Police again.  That is one small step closer to permanent resident status, my friends.  I am so thankful that God prepared the way before me and granted such a successful trip.  And thank you to all who have prayed about this situation over the past months and years!imgp7247

The above picture fits some of the lyrics of a song I sang yesterday on the way to the Police.

Hearts open wide, hands lifted high,

over the clouds up into the blue sky.

You will never run away; You’re forever mine.

You will never run away; You’re by my side.

Listen to the whole song by Rend Collective.

I am so thankful that Jesus will never run away.  Jesus is Love, forever mine.  He takes me by the hand and leads me in the truly wild dance of knowing Him and taking His love into this dark world.  The whole ongong visa adventure has been frustrating and overwhelming over the past few years, making me want to run away at times.  Yet Jesus has always been by my side, giving me the courage and fight to persevere, and the joy to laugh at impossibilities and praise Him even when things seemed hopeless.  And no matter what challenges or obstacles the future holds, Jesus will never run away.  And by the continued grace of Him who is able to keep me from falling, I will never give up or run away from Him, or from His work and heavenly calling.