When I was a kid my favorite Disney movie was The Little Mermaid. I once held up my cassette recorder to the television to record all the movie’s songs, so I could sing them throughout the day. Eventually, I memorized every word of every song. I am sure that I annoyed my parents as I blared “Under the Sea” and “Part of Your World” endlessly in my room.
I have been thinking of The Little Mermaid recently as we just passed the three-month mark of living in our new world. It is hard to be honest about what life has been like so far because in many ways I feel like I should be handling this transition better. I am a missionary kid. I grew up overseas. Before moving to Brazil the prospect of living overseas didn’t scare me or intimidate me; it excited me. I was like that little mermaid in her tavern, admiring all the new and exciting possibilities. Then the day came to leave my “sea” and step foot onto my new land, and that is when reality hit, my voice was gone.
I had never before thought about what it was like to navigate the world without a voice. After all, in my other two lands, Kenya and America, I had a voice. All of a sudden I am in an unfamiliar world without the ability to talk. I had no idea the impact that this would have on me and my family. When I pull up to the gas station, how do I tell them what kind of gas I want them to fill my tank with? How do I ask where to find something in an unfamiliar grocery store? How do I ask the pharmacist for a recommendation? How do I have a conversation with my daughter’s teachers or call them in sick? How do I help my kids with their homework or read the notes sent home from school? How do I call a doctor’s office for an appointment? How do I answer the simple questions that the cashier is asking me? How do I buy a bus ticket? What do I do if I get into a car accident? How do I tell my side of the story? Anything and everything I used to do with ease has been made harder, as my voice has been taken away.
Brandon and I spend 12 hours a week at language school, plus homework. Our kids have their own daily challenges as they navigate their voiceless worlds. While we are working every day to get our voices back, we are still months, maybe even a couple of years, away from having them again. I had never thought about how complicated language was until I started to study one with the goal of complete fluency. Just think about how many words and tenses we use daily? We give commands, we ask questions, we use negatives, we use future, past, and present tenses. Not to mention all the nuances, idioms, and phrases we just take for granted as being natives in our culture.
About a month ago Brandon and I visited a local mall to see what stores were there, as we have found this is the best way to find out where to buy needed items. After browsing for two hours the mall was closing and we went to an automatic kiosk to pay for parking. The machine rejected our credit card. We tried a different one; still rejected. We tried a different machine; still rejected. We walked upstairs to a different booth; still rejected. I started to panic as the mall was closing, and we cannot exit the parking lot without our ticket being paid, neither can we talk our way out of the situation. Brandon said that there has to be a cash payment place somewhere, but here we were in a huge mall with no ability to ask anyone the simple question “Hey, where do you pay cash for parking?” Such a simple phrase, one that comes so easily in our native language, impossible for us to say in our new world.
The first day of school for my girls was overwhelming. Monica attends in the mornings and Olivia in the afternoons. That first morning, I walked my sweet 11-year-old into the school. She clung to my side as we looked around at all the chattering students and staff. One little girl came up to Monica and said something. My sweet voiceless girl stared blankly at this girl. When I said we don’t speak Portuguese, the girl looked scared and ran off. The bell rang and everyone rushed to assembly. I asked Monica if she was okay. She wasn’t. She didn’t know how to ask where to go, where to sit, who her teacher was, where her classroom was. She didn’t know what was going on or how to ask for help. I finally found a teacher and said to her “She doesn’t speak Portuguese.” She smiled at me and took Monica’s hand.
As I left the building I burst into tears. It is one thing for me to navigate this world without a voice, but to leave my sweet little girl to do it without me was too much for my mommy heart to bear. Immediately thoughts flooded my head. What have we done? Did we make a mistake? Why did we leave the United States? How is this fair to my children? Why did we do this? We were comfortable in our world. We had a beautiful home and a ministry with great people. Our kids went to a school across the street where they had a voice and could understand their teachers and peers. Our lives were simple. As I cried a familiar whisper came to my heart, “Marci, remember your calling.”
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
I remember my calling. I remember that when I said yes to Jesus I said yes to leaving my nets on the beach and following him. I said yes to hardships and persecution. I said yes to trials and pain. I said yes to trusting only in him to keep his promises. I said yes to loving him above all things, I even said yes to losing my voice, so I can learn how to be his voice in this part of the world.