October 2013 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Once again, thank you so much for your support. Your prayers, emails and financial contributions are very appreciated.

Deciding what to talk about in my newsletters is sometimes a challenge. Some months it seems that new things are going on everyday and other months are much quieter. One thing that is certain is that there are always thousands of things to mentally process everyday. In my last newsletter, I opened up and tried to give you a small glimpse of what I am experiencing. This newsletter will be a bit of a continuation of that.

Lately, I’ve been trying to think of a good comparison to my experience here, something that could help you relate and understand better what the adjustment feels like to me. I thought about my first day of kindergarten, but that didn’t seem to work. Although kindergarten was definitely a major change in my daily routine and a bit scary, I could still communicate with language and express myself with everyone. I also knew at the end of the day I would be going back to my home and family. There was some comfort in knowing that my classmates were starting off new like me and were just as scared. So as I have tried to think about a way to help you understand what this transition has been like for me, I realize that there is nothing that I can compare it to and nothing I have experienced in the past that has fully prepared me for this transition and adventure.

As I thought further, a picture came to mind. We grow up in a certain culture. This culture molds and shapes us. We learn our place in our families, with our peers, and in the world as a whole. We find our “shape” and learn to fit into our culture like a small piece in a big puzzle. When moving to a brand new culture, we are like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle taken from one box and transferred into another box with an entirely different picture. We no longer know our place. Even though there is an eagerness to be part of the new life, there hasn’t been time to be formed and shaped to fit into this new puzzle. The new culture rubs us as we rub against the culture. On the best day, you feel excited at the adventure that is before you and discovering where you fit, yet on other days you feel like an out of place puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit. When people talk about culture shock I guess that’s what they are trying to describe.

One example of this in my life here is the amount of spontaneity in the Brazilian culture. It is in my nature to plan ahead. If I am having a party at my house, I will try to figure out all the details long before the party. However, here things seem to frequently be left until the last second which makes me feel anxious, but is perfectly comfortable for my Brazilian friends. I am realizing that the culture in Northern Brazil functions this way and people seem to thrive on the freedom this kind of spontaneity provides. There are many moments when I have to simply remind myself that I am going through “puzzle shock”, take a breath and roll with the punches. J

Another factor that I am becoming very aware of is how this brand new culture has waged war on my pride. I believe this is a good thing, but it’s a very uncomfortable “good thing”. I am regularly making mistakes – mistakes with cultural expectations, mistakes with the language, mistakes with everything! I am finding that I must take on the posture of a child to succeed. I have to let go of my need to show myself as competent, and assume the role of a learner and one who is often dependent on others. For me this is harder than it sounds. I would love for things to be easy and comfortable, but adapting to a new culture is a slow process. It is a learning process to become content simply putting one foot in front of the other as I continue down this new path that God has set before me.

So as I find myself in a new and often uncomfortable setting, the only options are to try to change my surroundings, change myself, or leave. Well, I am not leaving, and I believe it makes much more sense for me to change as a person than to try to change the entire Brazilian culture. J I do believe I can have influence, but I am not here to change their culture. I am here to love and serve people, and to introduce them to Jesus.

Miranti, the church I attend

The graduating leadership training class at Miranti

A childhood neighborhood outreach event at my church. This is kind of like Vacation Bible School in the United States.

Me at the children’s neighborhood outreach

A new home group that I started in my apartment for young adults

A dentist came to our community outreach center (CDR) to provide screenings and cleanings. Denise and I became "dental assistants" for the day!

Prayer Requests:

Financial Support – my support has dipped some since first arriving.

Language Acquisition – this continues to move along slowly.
Patience and Flexibility – reminding myself that it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Insecurity – regularly finding my peace and identity in Christ and not in what I do or how I perform.

I am looking forward to coming home for five or six weeks over the holidays. Denise will be joining me.

Thank you once again for your kindness in praying for me, supporting me and communicating with me. I love hearing from you.

In His Service,

Christopher

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