Being in a foreign country has given me lots of time for quiet reflection. Whenever I'm in a gathering, I let the conversation flow around me until my sister has an opportunity to pause and translate the general gist of it from Portuguese to English and then translate my contribution from English to Portuguese. My few lessons in the language allow me to pick out a few words here or there. In our weekly small group meeting, I usually sit quietly and read the reference scriptures for the duration of the meeting (or, since I’m being honest, text my friends). If my sister has an opportunity to get my opinion, I give it and return to silence. I haven’t felt isolated, but naturally, I’m inhibited.
I watch the faces of the small group members (at least their eyes above their masks) and I can tell that they want to get to know me, and I want to get to know them, but unless we can figure out how to bridge the language gap, it can’t happen.
My sister told me a story about when she first started her medical programme in Brazil and was faced with the same difficulties that I was. The school had lots of limes (Jamaican for social gatherings) for the international students and there was one girl from Benin who she wanted to get to know, but because neither of them spoke Portuguese yet (or each other’s native languages), they couldn’t communicate. They sometimes sought each other out to exchange polite greetings in stilted Portuguese. By the next year when they were both comfortable in Portuguese, they rediscovered each other and realised that they shared several of the same interests. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
This week, I was worrying (there’s that word again!) about whether I was really hearing from God. I tell you! If you start doubting one word from Him, then you may end up doubting everything you've heard and then you wonder why you left your steady paying job (with opportunities for upward mobility) to go off in the middle of a pandemic based on a “word from God”. Once you get to that place, there’s no peace for you. But the good thing about being stuck inside, with quiet contemplation as your only escape, is that God is patiently persistent in not letting you stay in bad habits.
I listened to a sermon by Derek Prince on ‘Hearing From God’. It was pretty long but not ‘Lord of The Rings’ long. The version on the website is even split into bite-sized pieces in case you want to listen to it over a few sessions (I have notes that I can send if you DM me). I will say that by the end of it, I was extremely comforted that I was on the right track. I have been hearing from God and understanding Him. I’m His sheep (John 10:27). I know His voice! Cue 'Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)'!
And now let’s bring it full circle to not knowing Portuguese in a Portuguese country.
This is where the metaphor gets a little wonky because while God already fully knows us and understands us, we can’t say the same of Him. But let’s just imagine that He’s speaking Portuguese to us and we foreigners are staring blankly back at Him. He wants us to understand when He’s talking to us and to know what He’s saying to us. He wants the intimacy of us speaking the same language as Him. And of course, He wants us to trust Him and obey His voice when we hear Him, like sheep.
Now I know what my sister felt when she realised that she and her friend could finally speak the same language. That’s when their friendship truly began, and it’s the same thing with God!
So go learn Portuguese! Or actually….. go learn God’s voice.
Oh! Another good thing that happened last week! ‘The Chosen’ Season 2 launched and it is vundabar! You guys need to check out Season 1 if you haven’t already.