Thursday, February 19, 2009

Way Cool Wednesday

In 2008 we rejoiced in Natal as, throughout the course of the year, 7 different people gave their lives to Christ through baptism. I've blogged about most of them, names you may now be familiar with, such as Francisco, Geraldo, Talis, Jefferson, and Tiago. (Those took place between August and December.) Then I told you about how in 2009 we had 3 baptisms on the same day in January, and I hadn't even told you yet about the baptism we had the first Sunday in February, my last Sunday in Natal before I left for the United States.

Well, I'm back to report more good news, my friends. Last night we celebrated once more (mine was a remote celebration, but I can celebrate in Oklahoma just as well as in Natal!) as ONE MORE sister gave her life to Christ through baptism!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I get a 'YAHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!'? Thanks. :)

I'll be honest when I tell you that I didn't even know our new sister's name until I just asked a friend in Natal (thank goodness for instant messenger! I just knew her as "Jackeline's mom.") But I will tell you how she came to join our family. Back during the summer when my parents were on their LST project in Natal, my mom read with a sweet, sweet young man named Andre. Andre was already a very faithful Christian, but really loved our program and what we were doing in the community. He invited his friend, Jackeline, to visit the church and check out the basic English classes. Andre eventually disappeared, but Jackeline kept coming. She has been coming off and on, more on than off, since July, and has gotten involved with the English program, our LST parties, our women's Bible studies, VBS, the young people's group, and Sunday worship services. She has been studying the Bible with Marisa for quite some time, and after she began her studies, she started to bring her mom to church with her, as well. Her mom had not been coming for very long before she decided that it was time she made a decision...before her daughter even reached that point! I look forward to getting to know her better when I get back to Natal.

Please pray that Noemia will continue to grow in her faith, and that she will be an example to her daughter of what a life transformed by Christ looks like. This is a tremendous blessing for Jackeline, and my prayer is that they are an encouragement to one another. And, one more time, YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(If you haven't yet, please make sure to check out the post just below this one that I wrote yesterday about reverse culture shock. Those of you who don't use Google Reader really should. It's quite the miracle program. :) )

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reverse Culture Shock

Many of you are familiar with the idea of culture shock. You go to a new place (foreign country or foreign state) and are quite literally "shocked" by the culture. Everything seems backwards and you begin to develop irrational hatreds toward obscure parts of the new culture. (Real examples that I have seen: anger about produce in Brazil, tears over the lack of forks in Japan, a refusal to speak anything but English to foreigners because everyone should know it, etc.) Culture shock can come about in a trip that lasts a week or in a move that lasts years. It usually rears its ugly head toward the end of the beginning (month 3 of 12, week 2 of 6) as soon as the honeymoon phase wears off. It's very real, very ugly, and, in hindsight, very humorous. (It was me who cried over the lack of forks in Japan, I'll admit it...)

Few of you, however, may be familiar with the concept of reverse culture shock. It seems backwards, and it is! The idea is that, once you travel to said foreign land and become accustomed to their way of doing things, you go through culture shock AGAIN when you return to your home county/state/city/etc. Whereas you became accustomed to eating with large toothpicks in Japan, you find Americans lazy that they use knives, forks, and spoons. (Ok, bad example.) A better example may be that you (I) become so used to attending a church with 50 members in, oh, say, Natal, Brazil, that you (I) go to visit your (my) home church for the first time, and the 2,500 members make you (I) want to crawl into a corner and hide. Whereas the sheer enormity of the congregation never bothered you before your cross-cultural experience, now it seems impractical, superficial, unnecessary, and impersonal. The feelings of reverse culture shock can be just as ridiculous as those of culture shock, but in my case, more often than not, they act as a spotlight to the ways I've grown and changed since my cross-cultural experience began. Some of it comes out in the form of judgmentalism, and although that is not appropriate, either, it also acts as a spotlight to the ways that your views and opinions have changed.

In a way, you return to your "home" and it really may not feel like home at all. The friends, acquaintances, trends, technology, worship songs, popular artists, TV shows, and maybe even family have all continued living life- without you! This can be the most shocking part of it all. You don't know where you fit anymore, or even IF you fit, in the scheme of "home."

To give you a true example of how I am adjusting to life in the States and perhaps going through a little reverse culture shock, allow me to pose a few questions and make a few statements, some of which may show that I am becoming an old lady:

-WHO are the Jonas Brothers?
-Is it safe for me to be out driving alone after dark? (In Edmond, Oklahoma!)
-Why is everyone at church in such a rush to get to the next thing instead of taking time to actually have conversations with each other?
-Why do some people spend more time texting and answering phone calls during a face to face conversation than paying attention to the physical person they are talking to?
-Dollar value menu? You can get food for ONE DOLLAR?
-Jaywalking? There are designated places to cross the street?
-You paid how much for that iPhone?
-Cupcakes? The latest trend is cupcakes?
-What language am I supposed to be speaking?/How do I say that in English?

And, finally, I implore:

-WHAT IN THE WORLD IS TWITTER?????????????????

As you read those, please don't take offense or assume I was talking about you. In all honesty, these questions have essentially been playing on repeat in my head for the last two weeks, as I looked wide-eyed at to this fast-paced, bright lights, text messaging world we call America. I wrote this more to give you, my readers, an insight into what it's like coming "home." Part of culture shock, and reverse culture shock, I think, is heaven-sent. From what I understand, we aren't supposed to be getting tooooo comfortable in any one place, right? Aren't we just a'passin through, anyway?

I love being here, and I love seeing my family, friends, and eating out very cheaply. But if you happen to see me looking wide-eyed and completely lost, I'm probably just needing to see a friendly face or hear some friendly words of encouragement. Anything along the lines of "I'm happy to see you," or "Cris, want me to take you out for some Mexican food?" will do just fine. ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm here!

In case anyone was wondering, I did make it back to the US just fine. Upon my arrival (or departure, no one really knows) I caught an eye infection in both eyes that had me out of my contacts and squinting for over a week. Thankfully, it cleared up quickly and I was able to make it to my first meeting with a missions committee in Austin, Texas last weekend. Everything went well and they agreed to be my overseeing church and pay my working fund. Praise God! That is a tremendous answer to prayer and I am looking forward to meeting with other congregations so that I can get back to Natal as soon as possible!

I have gotten a good dose of Mexican food, but have nowhere reached my limit. I still have quite a few restaurants on my list to be checked off, but thankfully Mexican has been well-represented thus far. I'm enjoying spending time with my family, old friends, and wearing jackets and close-toed shoes. I'm looking forward to a trip to Abilene in a few weeks to see college friends. Stay tuned for my next post about reverse culture shock. I intend for it to be informative, and, as always, I also hope it's entertaining. :)