Saturday, August 8, 2009


Since I got back to Natal in April, most of my time has been dedicated to either A) getting my life in order (i.e. moving to a new apartment, buying a car) or B) hosting the two LST projects we had in June and July. These tasks can keep a young missionary pretty busy, so my own English conversation classes and reading sessions were kind of put on the back burner until things settled down. Then I had the task of figuring out how one young missionary was going to arrange follow-up with three people's worth of readers PLUS leftover readers from the previous year. Thank goodness July is vacation month, because after the second LST project I had a couple of free weeks to get organized and work some magic to find the answer to the above equation. (3 workers x 12 readers each + 15 leftovers=Cris's 40 hour workweek..nearly impossible...but with God all things are possible, right?)

Thankfully, I was able to start up quite a few group classes last week, (my solution to that nasty equation) two of which are made up entirely of students from the English school where I taught for a month! By the time all is said and done, I expect to have about 10 group classes of varying levels. Any class up until the advanced level will study out of the LST reading materials, beginning with the Gospel of Luke. And the advanced class...oh the advanced class. That is what I am here to tell you about tonight.

The advance class is really the greatest English conversation class in the history of English conversation classes. When I first arrived in Natal, I began an advanced conversation class that consisted of readers with advanced conversation levels but who were also Christians. The class kind of turned into a debate class, and was so successful that the readers all became really close friends and have been asking (ok, bugging) me ever since to start it up again. (We had to stop due to scheduling conflicts.) As I went through all of the paperwork on this year's readers, I was thrilled to see that there were enough readers to not only put together one advanced group class, but THREE!

On Monday mornings, Monday afternoons, and Thursday evenings, I now have three separate groups who meet to "discuss" (ahem, argue) about controversial issues that relate to Christianity. Some of the students are Christians, some are very much not. Our text is "The Top 100 Questions," a book written by a British journalist that has one-page answers to what he considers to be the top 100 questions outsiders have about the Christian faith. The questions range from "Does Christianity have the highest standard of ethics?" to "What are the rights of the unborn?" to "Who is the Antichrist?" to "Is Jesus really the only way?" As I have glanced through the book, a few topics have made me cringe and think "Oh, I really hope the readers don't choose to debate that one..." but I know that it will be an extremely constructive experience for us all. I have even already warned the readers that since the book is written by a British author, we are all in for a new vocabulary learning experience. :) (New vocab words this week: dogged, aggregated, ceased, coined, shallow, deadlines.)

As each group met this week for the first time to look through the topics and get to know each other a bit, I introduced them to a chapter entitled "Who are we? What are we?" and we consequently got into our first debate about whether or not humans are born with the innate ability to distinguish right from wrong. It was a nice way to introduce them to the format of the class, and they all got a nice taste of the ride they are in for this semester.

Please keep these classes in your prayers. I pray that as I facilitate (and mediate) the discussions, God will guide me with a spirit of wisdom and truth. I know that these classes are going to open up some tremendous opportunities for me to share the message of Christ, and I pray that I will take those opportunities boldly yet sensitively.

I hope to periodically update you on the progress of these classes, because I think that they will provide you with excellent insight into my day to day work in Natal, as well as thought-provoking ideas to think about. And if you have always wondered if Christianity does, in fact, have the highest standard of ethics, check back with me on Monday. I expect to have an answer for you!


Lacy Almeda Hefley said...

Sounds like so much fun! Especially if Kleber is part of the group. Today I said "I didn't knew" (on purpose), thought of him, and laughed really hard.

Pat said...

Hi Cris,

Just came across your post as I was looking for some information on Natal. I was wondering if I could ask a few questions to answer a few questions as I am considering moving there?

I am strongly thinking about moving there and hoping to work.. I speak french, english, spanish and portuguese already well under way.

The reason I am writing to you is I would like to have your impressions on the city, how people are, have you seen lots of violence, is it a pretty safe city... Questions like that I have in my mind that only someone who has been there can answer.

How easy is it to find a job? I graduated in electrical engineering and worked for over 12 years as a software developer. From what I have seen Natal is not very the place for this kind of work as it is more about tourism but then again I could be mistaken...What do you think? If not, how easy do you think it would be to invest in tourism opening a Pousada? IS that something someone could live from?

Anyways, I'll leave it at this for now and hoping you'll respond and hopefully be able to help me with some of these questions..

Thank you very much in advance for your help..

Cris said...

Pat, I'd be happy to answer your questions. Why don't you give me your email address and I will respond by email.

Pat said...
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