(Before starting this installment, I must apologize. I promised that I would write a little about our story each Friday. But, that is not happening. Obviously, since today is Monday. So, instead of always falling short, I'm just going to say that I will write the next part when I can. Sometimes, I just don't have time to think it through and sit down and write a lot. So, I will do it when I can. OK, here goes part 9)
For parts 1-8, click here and scroll down.
Our family moved to Abilene in May of 2001. Our training and internship with Continent of Great Cities started in June. We got settled into a little apartment, found a babysitter for the kids, and started taking portuguese classes.
I thought that I would be pretty good at learning a new language. I "planned" to be fluent in portuguese by the end of the summer. (Obviously, I had never learned a foreign language before and had enormous, unrealistic fantasies of my capacity to learn!). Our first day of portuguese class, our teacher, Dr. Robert Brown, walked in and started singing a song to us in portuguese. Suddenly, my fantasies came down to reality pretty quick. It sounded like he was speaking moon-talk. NONE of it sounded like anything I knew or had ever heard before. I quickly realized that learning this language was going to be a long road. But, nonetheless, being the "student at heart" that I am, I was looking forward to learning. I knew that, even though it would take time, this was something I could do.
On our first Sunday at church in Abilene, I stupidly left my purse under the seat in our car. The purse was "hidden", but with the long black handles sticking out. We parked in a little alley near the church building, and during church, someone broke our window out and stole my purse. What? Were we not in Grenada, Mississippi anymore?? I was pretty upset, but our teammates and our family rallied around us, encouraged us, and we made it through. Sadly, Kevin's passport was in my purse, so we had to get a new one - unnecessary trouble, but not impossible.
We were taking our portuguese classes and other training classes and everything was going along smoothly. We were still looking for a sponsoring church, but other than that, things were going well.
Then, we took a survey trip to Brazil at the beginning of August. Besides an anniversary trip to Cancun, I had never been out of the country, and although I didn't want to believe it, was pretty sheltered in my southern U.S. life up to this point. We arrived in Brazil in the northern city of Fortaleza. A beautiful beach town. My first impression was that it was ugly. There was grafitti on the buildings and shards of glass sticking up on the walls to keep intruders out. Every window was covered with bars. Not pretty. I started to get a little stomach ache.
We had fun in Fortaleza at the beach, and then took off for Rio. HUGE city with GIGANTIC slums and tons of traffic. My stomach ache turned to literal fear. I did not think that I could do this.
Besides the change in surroundings, there was change in food. Everything, except McDonalds, tasted weird. I was eating different food all the time, and let's just say my digestive system kind of quit working. Bronwyn and Ansley were with us on the trip, and we would go out to eat late at night (like Brazilians do) and they would be falling asleep at the table. We would all stay up late, and then in the morning all the city noises would wake us up early. Well, not really early - our normal time to get up, but we were staying up a lot later. Then, in the afternoon, everyone else on the team would take a long nap. I couldn't take a nap. I'm not really a nap taker, and when I laid down, my mind wouldn't turn off, so no sleeping for me. So a few days into our trip and I was physically kind of messed up.
After Rio, we went to Curitiba - one of the nicest Brazilian cities. My fear eased off a little and I began to have hope that maybe I actually could do this. Then on to Porto Alegre - where we visited car stores, apartments, furniture stores, schools, tourist spots - in a 7 day whirlwind. By the time we were finishing up in Porto Alegre, I was totally exhausted, feeling bad, and completely SICK of Brazil. I remember that they took us to a Brazilian churrascaria (steak-house), and the meat served on a spear, the loud Brazilian music, the people sitting around talking and laughing in portuguese just got to me. I thought, "I hate this place. I hate their food, their music, their language - everything." I just started to cry sitting there at the table in the restaurant. Ugh.
I was so ready to go home. It was three and half weeks of struggle for me, with a few fun times thrown in to keep me from truly going insane.
When we got back, I questioned myself about whether I could really do this or not. Looking back now, I realize that it was just complete culture shock to my system, but at the time, it was hard. Would I ever be able to be happy there? My confidence and assurance of God's calling was shattered.
One of the books that meant a lot to us during this time was, If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg. Ortberg compares Peter walking on water to us stepping out in faith to do what God calls us to do. This book encouraged us in our "step of faith" to actually leave home and join the mission team. After our survey trip, I picked up this book again and focused on the part when he talks about Peter taking his eyes off of Jesus because the winds came. He said in all walks of faith, the winds will come. Winds of doubt, discouragement, culture shock, yucky food, stomach aches, digestive troubles, glass shards, and exhaustion. When the winds come, we have to keep our eyes on the one who called us.
So that's what we did. We just kept going.