What am I Doing Here?

Desculpa, eu falo um pouco de Portugues

Sorry, I speak a little Portuguese

Eu moro em Porto Alegre seis semanas.

I have lived in Porto Alegre six weeks.

 

I have learned to say these two phrases along with an apology of how poorly I can communicate with the person in front of me. This summer during our missionary training we were warned that we will be living at a low capacity when we first get to the field. They warned us about this stress and explained the importance of pushing through the feelings that will come with it.

Here is what living at a low capacity looks like for me: I am 37 years old. I cannot speak the language of the culture I am living in. Because of that I cannot easily ask for help to find something at the grocery store or any other store I walk into. I cannot read the signs at the end of the aisles, telling me what is down each aisle. I cannot read labels on food, so often I am unsure if what I am looking at is what I want. Just tonight I warmed up what I thought was garlic, parmesan bread until my youngest daughter asked if there was coconut on it. There was. We accidentally had coconut bread with our pasta. Back at the store I cannot answer the questions the cashier asks when I am checking out. I cannot go to the pharmacy alone and have a conversation with the pharmacist to get the proper medicine needed for my sick child. I cannot order a pizza by phone or any food for that matter. I cannot ask someone on the street for directions. I cannot call a doctor to make an appointment. I cannot buy a bus ticket. I cannot get to know the people at church or my neighbors. I cannot ask them about their families, their lives, their jobs, their kids. I cannot even answer my own home phone when it rings, because I cannot understand the person talking to me. It is a stressful, overwhelming feeling to go out into the big scary world and be so needy and helpless. And what’s more, having to care for three children who depend on me.

Some days I wake up ready to conquer the world, go outside, and try out the language that I have been studying every day. Other days I wake up, look outside, and cry. I don’t want to go out there. I don’t want to struggle through the stress; I am just too tired. On those days my sweet husband reminds me to give myself grace. He reminds me that we have been here just six weeks. He reminds me that this adjustment will take time. We must take each day as it comes. We pray for strength to overcome the challenges of the day, and we pray that God would daily remind us of our calling. 

It often doesn’t take much to be reminded of our calling. Sometimes all it takes is a walk down the street. Up the hill from our apartment there is center of worship for the Afro Brazilian religion, Umbanda. Brandon, while walking home with our girls from a local skateboard park, has seen remnants of an animal sacrifice. On the sidewalk lay a chicken with its head cut off, laying in a pile of popcorn. Today, while walking home from a ladies’ meeting I got my daily reminder. Just steps away from my apartment building lay evidence of another altar and sacrifice that had been made. 

This might just look like popcorn spilled on the road, but it’s actually the remnants of a sacrifice.

Our apartment building is in the top-right corner of this picture. This is the closest intersection to our home.

Our apartment building is in the top-right corner of this picture. This is the closest intersection to our home.

The Bible has story after story of God calling people into situations where they are weak, incapable, and unqualified, and yet God fulfills his plans through them anyways. During morning coffee I stare out my living room window at the souls who walk by, and I reflect on the reality of the many lost souls here. I feel the weight of that incapable servant, when Jesus sweetly whispers a reminder to me:  

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

 So I write from my heart today, not for sympathy at the trials of daily living, but to say, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

- Marci