Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for...

On this Thanksgiving's eve, I am going to be totally cliche and list the things I am thankful for. I spent the day feeling sorry for myself because not only am I not with my family in the US for my FAVORITE holiday of the year, but this is my first year in Natal that we are not celebrating it here, either. Since Thanksgiving is more about thanksgiving than turkeys and pretzel jello salad, I thought it might help me to make this list. As always, if I feel that is is publishable, then I feel as though it will be entertaining to you. That's my rule, you know...

I am thankful:
  • that I live in a city that is sunny, like, 360 days a year. A lot of people in the northern hemisphere get SADD, and that is not a concern when you live close to the equator. Also makes for a nice tan.
  • that I have a handful of people in my life who really love me, even though they know me really well. It's nice to be loved in spite of your shortcomings.
  • to have family here in Natal. Not every young, single missionary is blessed to find a place and family in which he or she just naturally fits the way I do with the Signorettis. I am thankful for that.
  • to have a car. But not just any car. A CUTE car. Even though Talissa (my car) got keyed two weeks ago, she took it like a champ. But mostly I am thankful to just have a car. I feel much safer and more efficient not having to ride (and wait for) buses.
  • to be bilingual. That's pretty awesome if you ask me. And makes living in another country a whole lot easier.
  • that I get to spend Christmas in New York City with my family. Christmas away from family the last two years has been hard, and I anticipated it would be extra hard this year for some reasons that you'll probably find pretty boring. Long story short, I get to meet up with them in NYC. Never been there before. Pretty excited about it.
  • for Mexican food. You don't have to be one of the handful to know the role Mexican food plays in my life. I truly am thankful for it.
  • for laughter. I LOVE LAUGHING. And I love thinking I'm funny. Call it vain, that's ok. I make myself laugh a lot, and I believe it will add a few years to my life.
  • for crying. Helps create a healthy balance.
  • that God put me in this city, doing this job, at this time in my life. He is the ONLY explanation for why I am here doing what I do, and I figure He's the best reason there is.
  • for garbage disposals. Not having one in Natal makes me appreciate them all the more. When you go to dispose of your Thanksgiving scraps (although I encourage you not to perform such an atrocity) think of those of us who have to scrape our plates into the trash *GASP* and constantly clean out the sink's drain.
  • for the doormen who work at my current building and previous building. Their friendly faces make coming home feel homey.
  • for Surf laundry detergent. Buy some, take a big whiff, and you'll know what I'm talking about.
  • for free internet phone calls.
  • that I got to celebrate Thanksgiving two years in a row here in Natal, and was a part of the beginning of a fantastic Thanksgiving tradition: the Thanksgiving tree. You could say that this list is my Thanksgiving Tree 2009.
I could go on...and on...and on...and I will, tonight in my prayers. Because if we are being thankful, aren't we supposed to be thanking God? You better believe I'll be thanking God for garbage disposals tonight...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Advanced Group Class

Here is my Thursday night advanced group class. This is the class in which we study/debate controversial topics related to Christianity. We are obviously not having class in this photo, but eating ice cream and acai. Camila, the girl in the middle in red, left for a three-year master's program in Belgium last week, so we went out for ice cream for her last class session.

They all look sweet in the photo...just bring up predestination, abortion, ethics, or any other hot-button issue and you'll see these sweet angelic smiles change very quickly! Just kidding, I love my students!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lessons Learned from an Amateur Missionary

I've been thinking lately about the things I have learned since being here in Natal. September 4th marked my 2-year anniversary, and I think in 2 years I've learned quite a bit of what to do- and what not to do, when arriving on the mission field. I have a few friends who are in the same boat as I am, and a few who are getting ready to go onto the field, so I thought maybe writing these things down would be of value. It's also good for me to write these things down, lest I get too cocky and I forget. :)

1. An effective missionary goes on the mission field for TWO reasons: love for God, which is the most important, and love for the people whom he or she will be ministering to. One without the other causes a lot of pain and reduces the effectiveness of ministry.

2. Don't arrive to the new culture and begin criticizing things. Never utter the phrase "Well, in America we do things this way." You are not in "America" and no one probably cares. If you want to share the way things are done where you come from, humbly say "At home we do it this way," or "where I come from we do it that way," but never use those phrases to belittle the way natives do things. Use them to share about yourself, and that's it. I've learned that your new friends usually welcome knowing those interesting tidbits about yourself and your home culture if you share them in a way that is not condescending.

3. Embrace the culture from day 1. Will you go through culture shock? Absolutely. Will you be homesick? Of course. Will embracing the culture help you get through all of those things more quickly? YOU BETCHA. If your family always celebrated Christmas on Christmas morning, but your new culture celebrates it on Christmas Eve, spend your first Christmas on the field celebrating it on Christmas Eve. You will have a new cultural experience, learn new customs, have something to share in with new friends, and help you not feel soooo homesick. Feel free to celebrate privately on Christmas morning, but don't expect the natives to join you or change their plans for you. Maybe over the next few years you can share your traditions with them. If the biggest meal of the day in the new culture is lunch, rather than dinner, start eating a big lunch and small dinner on day 1. This will help your adjustment, your health, and cause you to not feel "inconvenienced" when you have to switch things up.

4. Be graceful. Do the people in your new culture have a tendency to always be running late? Are you a stickler for punctuality? Don't expect to change their customs with rage. Learn to expect what you know will probably happen, and be pleasantly surprised when it doesn't. Show grace to those who need it, because sharing the Gospel is not as bound to hours and minutes as it is to relationships.

5. Don't assume people love the United States. There is a lot of anti-American sentiment overseas, and arriving to a new country assuming that people will be impressed by you will only add to that. A lot of times the sentiments are unfounded, but a lot of times they are totally valid. Either way, don't try to argue your point. Show them with your behavior, your speech, and, most importantly, YOUR WILLINGNESS TO LEARN, that you represent an exception to what they think is the rule. Over time, you will become the rule (so be careful!)

That's all I can think of for right now, but I'm sure there's more. If you read this and find it helpful, please let me know and I'll share more as it comes to mind. Deanna, I'm specifically thinking about you and your team. Your message to me the other day got me thinking about this!

Have a good weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm proud of my students when they use English idiomatic phrases appropriately...but....

So today I was in one of my group classes with two students, reading about The Triumphal Entry/Palm Sunday. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story where Jesus rides in on a donkey and people wave palm branches and give him a King's welcome, you can read the story here.)

I asked my reader why the people were so excited to welcome Jesus, and he said: "The people knew there was coming someone to be the Son of God, blah blah blah..."

So...he gets who Jesus was...

Where does one go from here?

I always say life in Brazil is never dull...but along with that I should include that Bible study in Brazil is never dull, either.