It didn’t take me long living in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language to realize that many things that once were important to me to understand or be able to communicate about were going to be quite difficult.
The first thing I realized was very hard was getting a haircut. While I’m not that girl who is crazy about my hair, I have always liked a nice, up to date cut. Usually I would tell the stylist a bit about my hair, make some suggestions and then let them go for it (or for my regular stylist in Atlanta, just catch up on the latest news). There, though, sign language was the main form of communication, plus the determination of the stylist to attempt to do something with all that (new, more ecstatic) frizz.
Lots of tears over very bad haircuts, some cheap, some very expensive, and none just great. Let’s say video skypeing was not my favorite thing unless I was sporting my running cap.
And the other thing that was just so hard there was attending church. Not only do you have the regular challenges with finding one that may align with your beliefs, has a kids program, is in a relatively convenient location and all the other things, but then you have the fast-speaking clergy. It was so hard for me to pick out what was being said (and then my Portuguese was terrible that I had to ask my husband how you say “Jesus” just so I could try to catch the sound of His name every once in a while. BTW, it’s JAY-zeus. *sigh*
Lots of tears. Mostly because of the isolation. The isolation was all to familiar in grocery stores, cocktail parties, the beach, waiting for school to let out all because I couldn’t understand what was being said to me and to the side conversations surrounding me. Then to face that same isolation in a place that is supposed to be comfortable. Emotional disaster! Don’t get me wrong, we had many friendly, wonderful, warm people invite us and introduce us to churches and truly want us to get connected, but it was just not possible (not even difficult, just not possible for me) with my language barrier.
So podcasts from two of my favorite Atlanta preachers, Andy Stanley and Sam Candler were added to my regular iPod rotation on Monday and Tuesday morning drives after dropping off at school. And while I have been through enough trials to firmly believe in God’s faithfulness to me, I did often think of my time in Recife as a spiritual holding pattern.
Then we returned from Brazil at the end of June to a very busy travel schedule. And, until tonight, we hadn’t been to church. (if you want to verify the busy-ness of our schedule, click this link to see the map of our 5,000+ travel miles we’ll accomplish in about 8 weeks)
And so it is that tonight my sister and I happen to be in our hometown with our four little ones visiting grandparents, preparing for my 20 year high school reunion (!) and we sadly had to attend the vigil of our friends’ father tonight.
The service was held in the one Catholic church in my hometown – and what a beautiful place it is. The stained glass was bright and beautiful; the sanctuary a place of peace.
And while I knew deep down that when I was able to return to a holy place, a place to be in communion with God that I would indeed shed more tears….I thought the tears would be a mixed bag of relief, confusion, exhaustion, inspiration, and comfort….and about me.
But instead tonight it was about my friends’ dad, in celebrating his life, in hearing about his commitment to his family, his behind-the-scenes approach to life, his quirky sense of humor, his vast interest in the world around him, and his loving care of his family. I sat in the pew and cried for their loss, for those moments of realization that they will have when they truly begin to miss John.
In some way, that first foray back into church was a comfort that it wasn’t about me and what I have felt I missed. And I was pleased to be part of this community of the friends and family of John that could support his wife, daughter, son, brothers and sisters. It was one of the first times in a long time that I could understand, experience and participate that community support of a family in need, surrounded by thoughtful and caring people.
Tonight I pray for their family, and for John.