One of the biggest culture events that we’ve gotten to dip our toes into so far was a feast that was held to disperse the spirits of the dead from a community near us. Jevon and I both went, with the kids, for a couple of hours in the day time, and Jevon got in on some games. He and a bunch of the guys his age had to move a pile of sticks – lightweight wood – all the way around the communal house. They stood in a line throwing the sticks backwards to each other over their shoulders. The guy behind you catches your stick and tosses it to the guy behind him, and so on. Later, in a different game, some girls threw sticks at him and he had to protect himself by hitting their sticks out of the air with a bigger stick. Then he returned the favor by throwing sticks at them while they protected themselves with bigger sticks.
Later that night, Jevon stayed with the kids and let me go back with my coworker Palmira, to observe the all-night ceremonies. I was super thankful for the opportunity that he gave me to go, even though I am not a night owl and don’t really like staying awake all night when I know I am just going to have to be awake and take care of the kids the next day.
There were some really enjoyable and special moments – like a moonlight walk with the women. And a fun and seemingly innocent dance with them, in the communal house, early in the night. It was actually a sort of follow-the-leader type of game, in which all of us held hands in an almost-complete circle. The one in the front of the line picked the step and started moving forward (moving the circle with her), and everybody else had to copy the step she chose. We skipped in a circle, we slid our bare feet on the dirt floor as if we were ice skating, and we put one foot out in the middle of the circle and turned sideways before stepping forward. Those were the shared moments that build relationships, the moments that we treasure up in our memories for the future.
But as the night wore on…and a headache started to kick in…as the rotten meat smell started to overwhelm me (yes, there are people in the world who don’t mind eating meat that’s a little, or a lot, past date)…as the fires that were burning in the middle of the house made it so hot inside that we had to turn our faces against the cool palm thatch wall to be able to stand it…then I had to remind myself why it was worth being there instead of between my nice cool sheets at home with Jevon.
And later, when I went home and processed the things that I had seen and heard through the long hours of the night, I took note again of the reasons why it had been SO worth staying awake.
So, in case you are curious, here a few reasons to stay up all night in the communal house:
1. To observe cultural values, and social structures that support them, in action. For example, throughout the night I observed that obedience is a big deal. When the old man who is putting on the feast asks people to get out of their hammocks and do something in the middle of the communal house, they are expected to cooperate. If they don’t, there are consequences. When the men ask the women to do something, they have to obey. If they don’t, there are consequences.
2. To observe the modes of teaching which are already existing in the culture. Culturally accepted means of teaching already exist in every culture, before that culture is introduced to schoolhouses and lectures in front of a classroom. Throughout the night, I observed key people teaching and being taught. This got me thinking: How might some of these very same modes of teaching be implemented some day in a maturing church? It’s too early to answer that question, but not too early to start thinking and dreaming and praying.
3. To observe people’s worldview in action. For example, both outspoken non-Christians and professed Christians were participating in the feast and in the various rituals that the feast was made up of. As the night wore on, the atmosphere became more serious and the rituals became more objective in nature. As these changes took place, my coworker and I stayed more and more on the sidelines, observing and learning, but no longer participating. The symbolism of the final rituals of the night was very clear; the purpose of it all was to send away the spirits of people that had died from that communal house. We observed with keen interest the details of the rituals. But it’s not just the details that we are here to learn about. The question that we had to ask ourselves was this: if a person is participating in this kind of ritual, what does he or she believe about life after death? And in who or what are they trusting to protect themselves and their families (from the spirits)? Or in who or what are they trusting to guide the spirits of deceased loved ones to “heaven”?
These are things that we need to observe, ask questions, and find answers about before we can teach, clearly communicate the gospel, or disciple young believers in the faith. And you don’t learn these kind of things while you are cozy in your house and your own bed. Is it worth losing a little sleep over? YES! And I’m sure we’ll be doing it again before our time of culture and language learning is complete.
We were alerted to the presence of the invaders when Cali went out back to check on her bird. “MOM!” she screamed, “They’re going to get my bird! They are all over the bird cage!”
I went out to see just who “they” might be. “They” were swarms of ants. But not the normal ants. I observed that they were not at all interested in the bird’s food dish. What were they looking for, anyways?
So I called Jevon over to look at them. He confirmed my suspicion that they were army ants.
The kids pretty much freaked out when they heard the fearsome name “army ants”. Apparently they assumed the troops were coming to attack us, or at least the bird. “Don’t worry,” I told Cali, “your bird can fly away if they are bothering him. Just don’t shut him in the cage, and he’ll be fine.”
We warned all of the kids to just leave the ants alone and not mess up their path. We tiptoed around them for the rest of the afternoon.
Later, I went into the bathroom and saw them swarming in there. I got a new found respect for the creatures when I saw them taking down a wasp many times their size! One army ant was holding the monster by the head, and the wasp was twisting and flailing its body desperately around, trying to get it’s stinger at the ant holding his head. Other ants came running up and surrounded the two, prepared to run in and help if need be.
Leaving the bathroom, I went to the kitchen sink. Through the window, I could see the old water tower – the little one that was already here when we came (not the big, new one that Jevon just built a few months ago). Much to my surprise, troops of army ants were marching in lines up and down the tower, carrying out big oval shaped white lumps. “What ARE those things? I asked myself. “Are those carpenter ant eggs? Or larvae?”
“Whoa!” Jevon yelled, from outside, “It is WAR out here under the tower!” Sure enough, the carpenter ants were fighting desperately to defend their nest, but to no avail. The army ants were hauling away the offspring faster than the carpenter ants could hold them back. “Woo hoo!” Jevon rejoiced, “Thank you LORD!” We had been killing carpenter ants in the house, thinking they must still have a hidden fortress somewhere, because we had been losing ground against them. We knew they liked to get in our electrical system and, of course, the wood that our house is made of. But we didn’t know where their big nest was. The army ants did us a big favor!
When the kids heard Jevon rejoicing, they took the army ants’ side and started cheering them on. Later, they just about cried when they found two wounded soldiers left behind on the bathroom floor.
Jevon’s mom says that army ants carry off the cockroaches, too. I prayed that they would find any eggs that might be under our house or hidden in places I hadn’t seen. The scouts, and the troops behind them, went through each of the rooms of our house, never bothering us at all except when Isaiah stepped on one. The one he stepped on took a big chomp on the side of his foot, but then, wouldn’t you take a bite out of anybody who stepped on you, too? By night time they were just marching in 3 straight lines around the back of the house, and eventually disappeared into the night.
Well, thank you, Lord, for sending your miniature army out of the jungle and into our house, to carry off the pests.
An important man died. Just before I went to bed, I heard the sound of wailing or a lamenting song. It was coming from the direction of the river. I had never heard that sound before, and I didn’t know what it was. It sent a sad shiver through me, but since Jevon was already asleep, I didn’t ask him about it.
We got the news the next morning. The old witchdoctor upriver, who had TB for the third time, had finally passed away. He was an important man, the second most important leader on this river. Because of his death, we heard from one source, nobody would be allowed to work for 7 days. No one at all. The men could not cut gardens. The women could not work on their beads. It was to be a time of grieving for all the people.
But was it just out of grief and respect for the deceased that no one was supposed to work? Apparently there was something else behind it. One source said that if a person worked during the specified time period, someone else would die. Another source said that if a person worked during this time, it would cause that person to be lazy in the future. The stories did not match up, but we were certain that there was something more than just grief or respect behind it all.
A few mornings later, we were eating breakfast at a rather latish hour, thinking that the guy who was going to help Jevon with construction and the woman who was going to help me with language would not be showing up. Much to our surprise, they walked out of the jungle and appeared at our door. We went to greet them, and a few awkward moments ticked slowly by, while we tried to figure out the purpose of their coming. We stood there wondering if they were wanting to work or not. If they were ALLOWED to work or not. When they said that yes, they had come to work, we scrambled to finish our breakfast and get ready to work with them. But we had some new questions in our minds.
Later, we were sitting down drinking water and relaxing in the living room, and our coworker Palmira was with us, too. The man who was helping us said that four days had already passed, so it was okay to work now. Palmira was curious about the mis-match stories we were getting from everybody, and asked him about it. “Why does one person say 7 days, and another says 4?”
“No, Palmira,” he said, “You don’t understand our culture. The people over there on the other river say it is 10 days, but they aren’t in charge here. The man in charge upriver says 7 days, so some people aren’t working for 7 days. The old man in another community says 5. Floriano (the oldest man in our friend’s own community) told us we could wait 4 days. So we didn’t work for 4 days.”
“That is why,” he continued, “I say to my people, ‘God’s Word is not like that. In our culture one person says one thing and another says another. But God’s Word is not like that. It is already written down. It cannot be changed.’ ”
I think he nailed a crucial point right on the head with those comments: the difference between the oral traditions of men and the written Word of God.
We can’t just make it up as we go and change it to fit our situation or the situation of our own community. We sure try to, don’t we? (I am talking about my own culture now; I am talking about you and me!) We try to wiggle around it and explain it away and make it sound better to ourselves. But it is there, just the same, written in black and white, testifying against us that we are making up our own way…and we are wrong. Ouch.
We have our names now! Cali’s name is Mema, Karina is Mashe, and Isaiah is Chana Pei. Cali’s name, as far as we know, is just a girl’s name. Karina’s name is the word for the traditional red paint that many indigenous peoples use to decorate themselves. Isaiah’s name means Oriole Feather. My name is Yasa (just another girl’s name). But I am also called Memaewa (Mema’s mother), which is a more respectful way of referring to an adult. Jevon is called Memapapa (Mema’s father), but the guys his own age still call him by his childhood name, Mesho.
It’s nice to have an answer, now, when people point (with their lower lip) at one of my kids and ask “What’s his name?”. And it’s also nice to know, when I hear someone yell “Yasa!”, that I’m supposed to respond. But only a handful of people actually call out my name to get my attention. One guy walks by my house and calls out, “Goodmorning, Aunt on the Father’s side”, and another says, “Get me a glass of water please, daughter of my Father’s sister or Mother’s brother”. I just assume that he is talking to me, because it’s my house and I have water. Some of the little kids stand outside yelling a variety of relational titles one by one, trying each one out to see which one works on me – that is, which one I will respond to. Too bad I don’t have the foggiest clue which title I am supposed to respond to for which child. Presumably, each one of them would be related to me in a different way. So for one of them, I should answer to one title, and to the other, I should answer to a different title. But I haven’t figured out how I’m related to whom. And apparently they haven’t figured it out yet either. They are just hoping I will know and I am just wishing that they would know.
When we were given names, we were given a lot MORE than just names. The names that were given to us were chosen based on a family identity and relationships which were also bestowed on us at the same time. And it seems to me, at least from my initial observations, that our relational identity matters a lot more than our names.
From time to time, people come to us informing us of how we are related to them, what they will call us and what we are supposed to call them. THAT is a really big help. Or at least it WOULD be a really big help, if I would remember to always have my notebook with me and always write down it down right away. In this world which we have now become a part of, it is respectful to address people (especially people older than you) by relationship, not by name. For example, if I am talking directly to my aunt, I should call her Aunt, and not use her name. But the really confusing part for us, is that uncle is not just uncle, and aunt is not just aunt. Your mother’s sister is one thing to you and your father’s sister is not the same thing. Your mother’s brother is one thing to you and your father’s brother is something else. Since we don’t understand this kinship system yet (not even Jevon understands it yet) we are just…
That’s okay. It’s all part of the package we received when we were given the gift of being involved in cross-cultural missions. The mystery of our names and kinships will unravel itself in time. We hope.
I think it might be time to pull out those old MTC notes on the various types of kinship systems in the world…if I can remember where we filed them away…
…and pray for God to open our eyes and wrap our brains around it all.
- The airplane is coming to help us
- God has brought us this far
- Everybody is in good health
- The kids are excited for this new step
- The faithful partnership and prayers of so many
- A week of good weather for the flights
- The av-gas to be available as promised
- Strength and health for body, mind, and spirit
- All the final details and loose ends to be wrapped up well
- Good initial adjustment for the kids as well as for us
- Good beginnings in relationships with people
- Team unity
- Ears to tune in quickly to new sounds and language patterns
Drawing up plans for a water system, to filter rain water for drinking and pump river water for washing.
Cutting PVC for gutters.
Helping custom order solar freezer, not only for us but for other missionaries here in country. A business man has agreed to make some modifications for us, such as thicker insulation so that they can be turned off all night while there is no sun.
Buying materials for mosquito nets for our beds.
Learning about volcanoes.
And place value.
Getting to know the littlest members of our team.
Making them laugh (Tio Jevon is good at that).
Learning to play nicely with them (at least working on it).
Trying to climb the açai trees,
which is hard, because they are very smooth and it is very easy to slide back down.
Learning to cook with new foods (like green cooking bananas).
And learning to eat new foods (like lots of macaxeira).
(Only to clear my conscience I have to be honest and let you know that the cheesy grin is just because he loves the camera. He actually pouted when he saw me put it on his plate.)
But little by little…we’re getting used to the things that are new in our life.
And all the while holding on to the things that are the SAME in our life.
Isaiah’s comforting SAME thing = bear
A comforting SAME thing that is for all of us = Who God is
I’ve been reading through Matthew these days, in Portuguese this time. And even though the language is different it is the SAME powerful truth coming through to me – the authority of Jesus Christ over all things. He is the supreme, sovereign Lord and Savior. He has all things under control. Everything obeys His commands – even stormy waters. Even sickness. Even demons. Everything moves forward according to His plan. Even the crucifixion.
Taking a Saturday off to all squish in a car and go visit some friends of our coworkers at their sítio (farm/place out in the country)…
…and feed the chickens…
…and check if the ingá was ripe. (It mostly wasn’t).
But it sure is a fascinating fruit.
Taking a nap when necessary.
Praying and learning to depend on the Lord more consciously and intentionally and in a more unified way.
Worshiping together with the other team that is here, and encouraging each other in the Lord.
The theme song of our time here has turned out to be “No horário de Deus”. We laugh as we sing it but the words really do hit the spot.
No horário de Deus, (In God’s timing)
Na maneira de Deus (In God’s way)
A montanha de lá (The mountain from over there)
transportada será (Will be moved)
ao mais fundo do mar. (To the depths of the sea)
No horário de Deus,(In God’s timing)
Na maneira de Deus,(In God’s way)
Tudo certo dará, (Everything will work out right)
Deus por cima está (God is above)
Basta só confiar. (You only need to trust)
No horário de Deus,(In God’s timing)
Na maneira de Deus, (In God’s way)
Ele tudo fará, (He will do everything)
Pois escrito está, (For it is written)
Deus não pode falhar. (God can not fail.)
Packing for the guys to go ahead on foot.
Choosing carefully what few things will go with and how to package them.
And weighing every bit of it.
Saying goodbye to the guys.
Taking time for important things, like suddenly running to buy popsicles for the kiddos right before the boat leaves.
Saying goodbye can be hard, even if it is only for a short time and for an exciting purpose. I think Everaldo’s little girl, Ester, will have it the hardest.
Karina cried, too. But who wouldn’t miss such great papa bears as these kids have?
Cheering up the kids…with laundry basins and kiddie pools on a hot day…
and a favorite meal… (everybody in this house loves a good fish!)
(fish, rice, mashed macaxeira, farofa with tiny little beans in it, salad, and vinagrette)
…served in a fun way. (outdoors, together with friends).
Since the dads are gone, Cali got her wish and had the head all to herself…
…which was fine, because the rest of us would prefer the ribs.
So… suddenly I feel a little sheepish because it seems like a lot of our blogs end with food. Maybe we are trying to make you hungry so you’ll want to come to Brazil.
But what we hope you REALLY are getting hungry for, is to see God in action changing people’s lives.
That is worth any plane ticket, or boat ride, or hike…or any number of changes of plans…or any number of months in any number of guest houses.
Let’s keep praying and in God’s timing we will see a harvest.
Here’s just a peek into these last few weeks – what we are busy with these days and why this waiting time is not a bad thing but actually a big help.
Jevon making plans for the electrical set-up of our house.
The breaker box he made with added surge protection.
Three shopping carts full of food. And my amazingly patient coworker who stayed with me for a few hours, helping, offering advice, inspecting every bag for any tiny sign of bugs or mold, and waiting while I thought things through and made decisions. Hopefully this will be a lot easier and faster the next time I have to do it.
Packing some of the food in boxes and taping them up.
Washing bottles. A taxi driver friend of the mission heard we needed bottles for storing dry foods, so he went to the factory for us, and came back with 108 bottles of out-of-date, fizz-less, or spoiled soda in his trunk. The kids had fun dumping it out, and the adults spent an afternoon and then some washing bottles. The next day God provided a super hot and sunny sky with no rainy season rain, which was a much needed help in getting all of those bottles perfectly dry. (sidenote: When we signed up to be missionaries, we didn’t know that washing out a hundred-some pop bottles was part of the assignment. The moral of that story is: Be ready to do whatever God asks of you!)
They tell us that pop bottles do even better than tupperware for keeping food dry, mold-free, and bug-free for months on end. Since our tupperware is still on a barge on its way here, and since there isn’t enough of it anyways for that much rice, beans, and flour, we decided to try the bottle advice. Jevon made a funnel out of another bottle and two bottle caps, and it is a lot more efficient than a typical kitchen funnel. But it still took all day to finish the job.
Aren’t they so pretty? I love all the colors.
Jevon looking at the airplane measurements on line and trying to imagine how things are going to fit and how many flights its going to take.
Meanwhile, Cali is continuing with first grade, and Karina is starting My Father’s World kindergarten. (Last semester we let her just focus on her Brazilian school. That’s why we are starting American kindergarten in the middle of the year.)
Counting seeds, observing seed arrangements, and recording her findings.
Reading race track – just for fun, to change up the reading practice. The car involved made Isaiah wish he was in first grade, too.
Climbing the coconut tree.
Drinking coconut water from a straw. Yes, we really do drink coconut water from a straw. (When we have lots of coconuts to spare, anyways, which isn’t all the time.) It’s fun, super hydrating, and tastes good. The girl in the middle with blond curls and big brown eyes is Ester, our coworkers’ daughter. She is about Isaiah’s age. The two of them run around together, playing happily one second and getting in fights the next. We are glad they have each other.
Enjoying the rainy season puddles.
Trying to make the biggest splash she can.
Sharing a Sunday dinner – roasted chicken that Cris prepared for us, rice, and macaxeira (manioc root, boiled and eaten like potatoes). Getting to know our coworkers has been one of the special blessings of this time in the guest house. We didn’t plan to have both our families here together right now, but God knew it would be a valuable time for us, especially since we had not met before we joined their team. How thankful we are to know that, when our plans A,B,C,D,E, F, and G don’t work out, God is in control and His plans are never frustrated. HE knows what is best.
“A little more povilho” my coworker said. I reached for the bag and poured a little more manioc flour into the strainer in her hand. She shook it gently to sift the flour into the bowl on the counter, where she was mixing the dough for pão de queijo. (Cheese bread rolls). We were making a Saturday evening snack for our two families to share.
I turned my back momentarily to rub a little oil in the baking sheets, and when I looked back at Cris, she was sitting on the floor. “Licença,” she excused her un-conventional behavior, “I have to sit on the ground to mix the dough with my hands.”
I have only been in Brazil for a year and a half, but I have spent a lot of that time with women in the kitchen. Their kitchen, my kitchen, big shared kitchens, and little family kitchens – all kinds of kitchens. And I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that sitting on the floor in the kitchen is not super normal here. Actually, the ground itself is avoided much more carefully than it is in the States, probably because it is much more difficult to keep the ground perfectly clean here, and Brazilians in general value cleanliness very highly. I actually sort of miss the ground sometimes…because in my own culture back home I never stopped to think if it was normal or not – I just plopped on the ground whenever I felt like it. Here, we do stop to think about what’s normal and what’s not, in order to avoid making huge cultural waves where they are unnecessary. So I haven’t done much sitting on the floor lately. Especially in kitchens.
But there sat my born-and-raised-Brazilian coworker Cris, on the floor of the shared kitchen in the guest house. So I picked up the baking sheets and sat down beside her. The two of us oiled our hands and started rolling the dough into little balls and placing them on the sheets. While we worked, she explained to me that the indigenous women always sit on the ground to work. She said that when she first came, and the women started teaching her how to cook their foods, they would always sit down on the ground and indicate for her to do the same. At first, it felt very awkward to her to work in that position. Now, it feels so right to her that she sits on the floor in her own kitchen to work dough with her hands.
I know what she is talking about…that change of nature that occurs in you, where the norms of someone else’s lifestyle begin to make sense to you. Such good sense, in fact, that you start to do certain things their way even when you are alone in your own house, and don’t have to be doing it that way to make them comfortable. You might even start to do things their way when you are with other people of your own culture. Because…their way just works for you. And because that other person’s lifestyle has become a part of you. Or because you have become part of them.
I know, because we’ve spent the last year and a half intentionally becoming something more like Brazilians than we were before. “Becoming” has become a very significant word in our vocabulary. And it can mean anything from changing the clothes we choose to wear, to what we consider “clean” or not clean, to the manner in which we demonstrate “welcome” to a friend at our own table.
But I have felt a little apprehensive, trying to fathom what it means to “become” in an indigenous context. I’m guessing it doesn’t have half as much to do with clothes and outward appearance as it does here in the city. I know it won’t mean adopting their beliefs about the spirit world. So what does it mean?
As we sat on the floor rolling balls of pão de queijo dough, Cris talked about the indigenous women. She talked about the first time that they took her fishing with them. She talked about how they accompanied her while she was trying to tip-toe across a log. She talked about how much she has come to appreciate the care that the women show for the other women in their family. She talked about the lady who adopted her as her daughter in the culture, and how much she has come to love this dear woman. As she talked, it was clear to me that she genuinely appreciates the women she lives and works among. She doesn’t just love them; she likes them, too.
It’s not the first time she’s told me stories about them, or talked about things of their culture that she appreciates. She has told me about their fish-and-cooking-banana soup that she likes so much. “You don’t have to like everything they eat;” she says, “because they are the same as we are. There are some things they like to eat, and some things they don’t. But you will learn to really like certain foods, and ask for more. They will know that you really like it.” She has told me about the way the women teach their daughters how to sit and how to reach for their food. “It’s not just any old way you sit and grab food,” she explained, “There is a way that you are supposed to do it.” And the way Cris talked, I perceived that she finds these women gracious and feminine in their cultural way.
She has told me about how they feel when it rains, too. Cris loves rain, and at first she thought that their distaste for it had to do with fear of the spirits. So she played happily with the indigenous school kids in the rain, demonstrating, in her mind, that there was nothing to fear. Later she found out that grey weather and rain reminds them of their loved ones that have died. So now, when she sees the melancholy faces on a cloudy day, she understands why they are so somber. “I still like rain,” she said, “but I try not to have a big party in front of them.”
Listening to my coworker talk encourages me. I can see that she is becoming. And this kind of becoming is not about learning to use the right clothes at the right times, as we were expected to learn when we came to Manaus. Brazilians, and especially Manauaras, have a pretty high standard of dress and expect others to follow it, too. But dress is not a big deal to every culture. Nor does this kind of becoming mean adopting their religious beliefs, because we believe the one Truth that supersedes all cultures. We believe that there is only One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one can come to God except through Him. But this becoming is about finding out what matters to them, and what makes them feel at home with you, and what makes them know that you like them. It’s about capitalizing on the things that you like and appreciate in their culture. It’s about recognizing when some of the cultural values they hold are the same as your cultural values, but demonstrated in a different way, and when they feel the same as you feel, but express it differently. And it’s about understanding, too, when their values truly are different than what your culture values, and when they really feel very differently about things than the way you feel about them.
And it’s not just about becoming friends. It’s about becoming meaningful in their lives. So that in time, we can become instruments of peace and hope in their lives. Vessels of light. Vessels of truth. It’s so that we can follow Jesus into proclaiming freedom for the captives and opening the eyes of the blind, bringing good news to the spiritually impoverished, turning mourning into dancing, and clothing people with a robe of joy. A figurative robe of joy, that is – a condition of the heart, which has nothing to do with either our culture or theirs, but which is a gift from God to whomever will receive it.
I am glad to have a coworker who is becoming. And who has a heart to become. The humility needed to learn, and the willingness to like, another culture. She also has true desire to see a mature church grow up among this precious people. That is our desire, also. We are here because we believe that that is, first of all, God’s desire. And, with the existing team that is here, we are following His heart into the midst of a people that were not our own, to become theirs.
Some notes I took in my devotional journal when we first got back to Manaus
In my reading through the Bible, I’ve finally come back around to 1st Peter, and 2nd Peter. And it’s such a timely encounter for me, with these letters.
We’ve moved again. And once again, it’s not to anywhere even semi-permanent. We’re back again to a guest room in Manaus. I can no longer remember clearly what it feels like, to not be a wanderer. To be settled in a place. Our sights are set on the unknown road ahead, on a time and place that only God knows, and a ministry full of giants and strongholds.
And in this context, oh how sweet the words of Peter are to my ears. Words breathed by the Holy Spirit, through the pen of someone who clearly loved Jesus and treasured Him above all else, addressed to “strangers in the world, scattered…”
And the language is the language of what John Piper would call “Christian hedonism”.
Over and over, urgently and insistently, Peter underlines and emphasizes the temporary and perishing nature of this world in which we live as estrangeiros (foreigners, strangers), and the permanence and superiority of that which we have in Christ.
- he reminds us by whom and for whom we have been chosen (1 Pet. 1:2)
- he reminds us of our hope and our inheritance (vs. 3-6)
- he reminds us of the worth of our faith (vs. 7)
- and the joy we have in Christ (vs. 8 )
- he reminds us that prophets and angels have longed for what we have (vs. 10-12)
- he reminds us of the precious blood of Christ – the perfect lamb, that redeemed us from empty lives
- and he reminds us of the eternal, imperishable nature of the Word of God.
And he keeps going: In chapter 2 he reminds us
- that we have tasted that the Lord is good (chapter 2, vs. 3)
- our identity (vs. 9-10)
- the example we have in Christ (vs. 21-25)
And listen to the kinds of adjectives he uses (in these two chapters)
- of greater worth
- belonging to God
In opening his second letter, Peter speaks of
- “a faith as precious as ours”, and
- “His very great and precious promises”.
On this basis, with this motivation – consumed by the greatness and preciousness of what we possess in Christ – Peter urges us to be holy, to love, to submit, to suffer, to shepherd the flock, to be godly, to be fruitful, and to hold on to the truth.
I keep reading and savoring these thoughts. As a stranger my heart grabs on to these truths and I am comforted, steadied, and spurred on my them. I NEED to focus my mind and heart on the superior treasures and rewards that we are inheriting. On His very great and precious promises. On the joy of having received, through the righteousness of Christ, a faith as precious as ours.
It’s a faith worth leaving home for. A faith worth missing loved ones for. Even family.
A faith worth sleeping in guest rooms so much for.
A faith worth using somebody else’s old pans for.
A faith worth pulling homeschool out of a packing crate every day for.
A faith worth sweating in the Amazon for.
A faith worth taking joltingly cold showers for.
A faith worth uncertainty and not knowing what tomorrow holds…because we have the word of the prophets and the promises of God for certain.
THANK YOU GOD FOR THESE LETTERS OF 1 and 2 PETER!!!!!!