Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why I'm Here

I've mentioned several times before on this blog that a highlight of my week is my Monday night English class. As soon as I got home from furlough, I was anxious to get back in the Monday night groove. I had missed my students, and I had missed our fantastic conversations about scripture even more! In the year and a half that I've been with this specific group, it's been made clear to me time and time again that our time together serves a very specific purpose.

I was antsy to get back into our study of Acts, as we had stopped exactly at the lesson where Stephen is brought in to the Sanhedrin. My students knew what was coming, but had been waiting for two months to read the next part of the story! Talk about suspense!

After a two-month break I knew they would need to be eased into the English. (Although I did find out that three of my students had continued meeting weekly while I was gone, on Monday night, no less, to practice English and re-read all the lessons we had already completed!) Since it's a basic conversation class, where I do a lot of explaining in Portuguese, I figured they might appreciate more chatting and less study the first night. So last week I prepared several ice breaker questions about a variety of different topics to get them talking. I only threw in one Bible-related question and I was curious to see how it would turn out. I figured most of my students would be able to recall a favorite Bible story, and chanced asking about a favorite Bible verse, as well. My veteran students would definitely have a great bank of stories to choose from, as we have already read Luke and are halfway through Acts, and I hoped they might even remember a verse or two that stuck out.

Thankfully, the Bible question ended up with one of my students who has pretty decent Bible knowledge. He was quick to say that his favorite Bible story was about Joseph in Egypt. I was happy with that answer and asked if he had a favorite Bible verse. "No, there are so many," he said, "I can't think of anything right now." So we moved on. A few minutes later he excitedly said "Oh! I remember a great verse. When Jesus is in the temple and his parents come back looking for him, and he looks at Joseph, his dad, and says 'Dad, you should have known that I would be in my Father's house!'" A full year after reading that story in class for the first time, he still remembered!

One of the things that makes this group so special is that their English level really is pretty basic. They take a while to string their words together and often give me their answers in Portuguese and I help phrase them in English. But no one seems to care. We do the reading in English and talk about vocabulary, which is important, but when we leave at the end I don't think anyone remembers what we did or didn't talk about in English. We remember what we talked about, what we learned about the way God worked in the lives of those we are reading about and continues to work in our lives today.

Last night was our first class back in the study material. We had a remarkable discussion about Stephen's death, and what he understood that his killers didn't. We talked about how Stephen knew that dying for Christ was better than living without him.  At the end of class, one of my students, who was back for the first time after a semester-long absence, pulled me aside and said "Cris, this is why I came back. The English is great and all, and I appreciate the extra practice, but I'm here because of what I learn about God. I don't learn this anywhere else. I'll never forget the class where we examined the Lord's Prayer. It changed my life, I tell everyone about it. This is why I'm here."

And, once again, I'm reminded of why I'm here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


You know your furlough was good when you are excited to get back home but not desperately so. That means your church visits went well, (great, actually!) your time with family was fulfilling and good, and you saw most, if not all, of the people who you've come to rely on as sources of encouragement for the work you are doing.

My interview/report to the Springtown church of Christ
In terms of the work-related part of this furlough, it was hands-down the best I've ever had. I got to know the leaders and members of my two supporting churches on a whole different level than on previous trips, and I got to share about the exciting things that God is doing in Natal, which is my favorite part of church visits! In terms of the personal part, this trip came in second to the trip I took last year for reasons that should be obvious to all who know me. :)

Gathering with a group from Westover Hills church of Christ
in Austin

At the end of my trip I was so ready to get home to Natal. Not because I was tired, because I was exceptionally well-rested (which, for those of you who know what furlough entails, is unusual.) Not because I so desperately missed my Brazilian family, because I face furlough as a positive and necessary break that contributes to the future well-being of my ministry. But, because after such a great visit, the only plausible next step was to get home and channel all of the encouragement, prayers, and new ideas into kicking off another wonderful year. And that's exactly what has happened! I have never been as ready to get back as I was this time, and it made me realize all over again how thrilled I am that God brought me to this place and continues to show me why.

Up next: a post about how great it was to get back in the groove of my Monday night English class!

Running in to one of our LST readers on the streets of NYC! What a coincidence!