We always know when the city is pumping water. You can see it in that little bounce in our steps. We’re actually going to have good water pressure, right now. Quick, everyone take a shower!!!
So we live in a city of 100,000+ people, which manifests itself in a handful of “city blocks” and a never-ending wind of pot-hole filled, sometimes deteriorating, dirt roads. You can almost see the accepted, yet urban pants-wearing young adult woman and foreigner contrasting the overwhelming majority of the skirt-wearing, rural farm-wife community. We are the beautiful tapestry of six blocks of urban gets dropped into the lap of the rural countryside.
For us that means entering the community well. Learning the patterns of city water pumping. Talking to a whole host of “can you help us fix this” people. Beginning friendships with a lot of “can you help us build this” now-familiar faces. We are breaking through conversations as, our previous supervisor says, people put us in “boxes” or “files” of where we belong. Are we a traveler? Are we actually going to stick around? Are we here to hand out stuff? Are we going to respect them and their culture? Are we going to be a flaunting Westerner? Are we going to be a lavish vacationer? Are we going to respond when they speak the local dialect? Where do we belong?
We’ve been told we speak Portuguese like people from our language city. I use it as an opportunity to pray for and thank the Lord for my language teacher and the program up north. The hours and hours of investment. I will never take them for granted.
But with the slight distance of such a “you are foreign” statement, comes a softness in their eyes as we know the normal greeting. Sincerity can be seen and felt. It’s a slow process, but a process that has begun, nonetheless.
We are the white family with four girls. No, we are not in need of a little boy. Yes, they are all just like a flight of stairs. Yes, they all understand Portuguese. Yes, the oldest can carry a conversation with you in Portuguese. Yes, the baby of our family looks like a doll. And yes, sometimes the littlest ones in our family will also say the respectfully appropriate greeting while you swoon and try to tickle their chins. We go through this same routine with every new and semi-new face.
But that’s ok. Because it’s called entering a community. And it happens slowly. Building daily. As we enter here one footprint at a time.
Through our preschooler, you can experience the entrance process: When the house has no furniture, you ask questions of when we will return to our “real home in” our language city. As our belongings come in from our language city (5 days later), you have a flood of delight and still confusion about when we will return to our “real home in” our language city. The one everyone calls your twin whom you still take naps with, keeps talking about all the homes you have lived in. She lists off grandma’s house, something called FPO which she always refers to as having those familiar names of our friends who were there, then there’s Disney World which she keeps telling you was an awesome home we lived in, but you don’t believe her when she says this is our new home. In the first newness, you announce in your excitement that next time we have ice cream, we should bring Emilia (our house helper from our language city). When your sisters explain that Emilia lives 2 days away by car, you look puzzled and take a bite of your cone.
The first time we walk to the market is an automatic hip-riding experience. Don’t look at me, don’t touch me. I belong to Mommy. The second time, you walk to the entrance of the market holding Mommy’s hand, then the first time someone talks to you, it’s an INSTANT pick-up need. I belong to Mommy.
The next time to the market you make it past the entrance on your own feet, but descending the steps someone tries to tickle your chin and it’s game over. I belong to Mommy, here in Mommy’s arms. Mommy keeps saying they’re just trying to play with you. You don’t believe it. You remind Mommy that they are a stranger, not your real friends. Mommy explains that you said hello to your real friends for the first time back in your language city. You think for a minute. You talk about it a little with Mommy. And the next time prompted, you say hello and ask how the strange lady is doing today. Mommy kisses you and tells you how proud she is of you.
Then the next series of visits come with a mixture of walking the aisles all on your own, the incredibly important job of holding the one left-over coin, saying hellos occasionally and many times needing Mommy’s arms for some extra security when things get too close. BUT you walk to and from the market on your own, willingly.
And then one day comes when you leave the gate, bounce off to the market along with your gaggle of sisters, have zero stress in your body as we cross the threshold into the market, follow right along with the pack of foreigners (also know as your family), smile, wave and say hello to the ladies at the market, and return home telling a hundred stories about how happy our guinea pigs will be with their new lettuce and cucumbers.
We are entering into a community in that we might dwell among those here because He chooses to dwell among us.
Oh it takes time and trust building to dwell somewhere. And it takes security snuggling moments. It takes courage and perspective changes. And it takes a lot of practice. But it’s starting to look like home around here. And it’s starting to feel like home too.
One day at a time.
One moment at a time.
Thanks to our Father, Who patiently and gently guides us.
Our Refuge, Our Rock and Our Redeemer.
May they see You as we enter here.