Sunday, March 31, 2013

Possible Teacher - Very Real Student

Hey everyone. It has been another month of living and growing in Portugal.  I say the word growing with a humble grin.  It’s amazing to me how the Lord teaches.  I move across an ocean, confident of my ability to teach wonderful things about the Lord.  And now, I am only beginning to realize that Jesus has still labeled me… Student.  How can this be? Well, I am finding in Portugal wonderful people.  They are generous, loving, and genuine.  I find myself learning to love a people I am just beginning to know.  I dearly long to teach them God’s word.   At the same time, God is showing me that I still have much to learn about investing in their lives. Much to learn.  So this trained man still has short-comings and faults, even as a teacher.  That is a humbling thought when I view myself as a teacher.  It’s not so daunting or troublesome when I think of myself as a student of Jesus.  Always learning. Always.

Pray that my colleagues and I have hearts that are always willing to learn. We want to stand confident in God’s Word first, and then grow and expand our visions and love of the Portuguese based on God’s teaching, the Bible.

What is life like in Portugal this month?  I would say that is a good question, but that would be a little self-praising for the author Smile.  The rain has discovered this nation again.  Apparently, I need to invest in a manly umbrella.  My wife has a rainbow colored one, and a pink one.  Carrying these two around a bunch of football players seems to draw chuckles and quips.  So, I have learned, acceptable social norms in America translate accordingly in Portugal… yeah for me.  Language is still difficult.  We had test of grammar that simulated where we should progress by May.  IT WAS TOUGH! I was suppose to hear a story in Portuguese and answer questions by filling in the blank sections. Ghhh, here is to hoping the next test is multiple-choice. 

  • Pray for energy and focus for Brandon and Tiffany Hodge, and Danielle and I as we strive to learn this language.

How is the football ministry?  Awesome.  The Celtics are now 3-2.  One more win and we make the playoffs.  The team has great chemistry.  There was a volunteer team that came during their spring break, from Alabama.  They had many struggles getting here and returning.  However, they were able to coach different teams in a camp in Northern Portugal.  The first ever for Northern Portugal.  It is something special to see the sport evolving from its infancy 8 years ago.  For those who are coaches, we ran 7-on-7 in the camp.  This was the first time many of them have seen such intricate combination routes.  Wow! That was fun to watch.  The Alabama guys brought gifts: jerseys, pads, shirts, etc., but the best gifts were their testimonies and New Testaments.  They even lead a Bible study with some of the Portuguese! Hopefully, a first of many.  My hope is that the love of football expands across the entire nation and its people.  More importantly, as football spreads, the love of Jesus Christ does as well.

(Can you spot the Americans?)

  • Pray for another team we have coming in this week to teach football.  Pray for the Portuguese guys to have free schedules and lots of energy so teaching and learning can take place… about football and Jesus.

Here is a challenge for you, the reader.  Where in your life are you normally a teacher, where you could you say ‘I will try and be a student this month?’ It seems to me that Jesus still has a bunch He is teaching me.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Baby Steps

Thank you for all your prayer and support! Some specific prayer needs:

  • Teams from the states: There are several teams that have come in from the states this month and next. Pray that relationships will be built and strengthened from these teams. And that they will share God with the Portuguese people.
  • Relationships: We have so many new relationships and friendships through football. Football is almost over this season, so pray these relationships are maintained throughout the summer. Also, pray for an avenue that we may gain relationships outside of football.
  • English Clubs: We have an opportunity to help with an English club in a public school this year. Pray that details may be worked out, and hearts of teachers and students will be open to God’s love and His word.
  • Bible studies: Several people have expressed interest in starting Bible studies with us. Pray that we may be used as God needs us, and that we may not be a stumbling block to those trying to seek His face.
  • Language: We are supposed to take a language proficiency exam this May. When we went to sign up for it, it was already full. Pray that we may get into the one in July. Also, pray that we can find language helpers to help us this summer, as we end formal school in May. Also, pray we learn enough to pass the test!

This week, my son decided he wanted to take a few steps on his own. Just to try it out. He did it at daycare, and we persuaded him by holding a rock he wanted to play with out in front of him. He’s a pretty simple kid.

But that got me thinking about my time in Portugal. We have almost been here three months. It seems like we have been here forever, though. Everything is becoming very familiar and almost like home. It definitely has not been easy, as there have been many transitions in all aspects of life, from the weather to the transportation system to the food down to the plugs we use here. But in this whole transition period, the biggest stressor I have is the language.

No, Portuguese is not the hardest language on the planet. But starting from scratch makes any language seem like the hardest language on earth.

It is frustrating because so many people speak English, so even if I wanted to practice Portuguese many times they get frustrated and I get frustrated and one or both of us switches back to English. So many people also want to practice English with you. And let’s face it, many times it is more convenient and effective to just speak English.

It is frustrating because I don’t feel like I know enough quite yet to speak. I am, contrary to popular belief, a bit of a perfectionist. If I don’t feel like I can do it, I won’t do it. Language is the same way. Sometimes if it will take me forever to construct a sentence, I just won’t say it. And I’ll let David say it. It is not his personality to feel that way, and he is constantly making me get out of my comfort zone and speak the language. It makes me want to punch him and hug him…after punching him.

It is frustrating because I feel like I should be so much further in my communication skills than I actually am. Portuguese people will tell me all the time, “You do so well for the amount of time you’ve been here!” Inside I’m screaming, “NO I don’t! It’s not good enough!” Yes, I can order food and survive in Portuguese society, sometimes just by blank looks and the kindness of strangers who help when they see I’m lost. But, let’s face it, most of the time I cannot carry on conversations with toddlers. And I can only understand when people speak really, really slowly.

If you really want a lesson in humility, go to another country to live, not vacation, live. It is the most humbling experience of my life. And this is coming from a woman who has given birth naturally, and experienced all the glorious aspects that come with it!

But I have to remind myself at the end of the day, when I want to weep with frustration because I cannot understand the butcher or the bus driver or the sermon on Sunday morning, this is all for a purpose. Yes, it would be easier to just be complacent and get by with the phrases I know. Yes, it would be easier to study for the test I have to take and function as an American who knows some Portuguese. Or, I could study to the best of my ability for God’s glory.

The end goal, as God has reminded me so often, is for others to see Him. I can’t do that well without learning the heart language of the people.

As I read in Acts 8, Philip is speaking to the Ethiopian eunuch and asks, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man replied, “How can I unless someone guides me?” That is my desire. To guide people to the Word of God.

Again, thank you for your prayers and your encouragement!