This is just so beautiful…

I’m sitting in the library, listening to some of my favorite music.  If you haven’t heard Jenny & Tyler yet, you are missing out!  I love all their music, but their new CD is pure gold, and since this post is titled after one of their songs, I figured it was only fair to give them a shout out.

As promised, here are a few pictures.

Making salt dough maps with my class

 

A few of the sweet MK girls I had over for a baking party

 

David's homemade banana bread

Preaching at the Retreat

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David with some of the students

The “It’s been a while” Top Ten

Hello, everyone!  I’ve thought about writing SO many times, but life has been sort of busy lately.  I’ve wanted to do some fun top-tens while we’re here, and I suppose this is as good a place to start as any.  So, may I introduce the first Top Ten list: the “It’s been a while” Top Ten.

10. Finally made it out to Downtown Belem!  Spent Saturday seeing sights including an old cathedral, one of the largest open air markets in South America, and Mangá Das Garças.We bought juice and salgadinhos (salty snacks) from a street vendor. Best. Juice. Ever.

9. We went to the Opera!  It was set in France, preformed in Italian with a Portuguese translation.  I had no idea what was going on, but David figured it out.

 

 

 

 

 

8. We have a pet… sort of.  Her name is Heidi and she’s a street cat who lives right outside our apartment building.  David has a weak spot for her, so he feeds her.

 

7.  We had Brazil Day in my second grade classroom– it was such fun to share in my students’ culture!

6. David was the main speaker for the jr/sr high Spiritual Emphasis Retreat.  We both got to go and were blessed to spend time with some really neat high school students.  It was also wonderful to share David’s first preaching experience (outside the classroom) together.   He was amazing.

5. Field Day, a two day event, is a big deal here at AVA!  David and I got to help out with that, and it was such fun to see families all over campus.

4. I got an opportunity to spend a weekend at the beach with a few of the ladies I’ve become friends with.  It was my first time swimming in the ocean, and it was SUPER!  I got a nice tan, got to share good conversation, and got to sleep in an air conditioned room.

3. After all of that craziness, we had two days off of school which David and I filled with sweet time together.  We relaxed, read books, talked, and had a few culinary adventures.

2. We’re thinking of starting David on Hair Club for Men (or equivalent) and saying that the tropical weather made his hair grow again.

1. Try singing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt at the top of your lungs.  We do.
Stay Tuned… More pictures to come.

Stay with us forever….

“But we think you should stay with us forever, Mrs. Goetz!”

I knew it was coming.  It always, always does. They get into my heart and I don’t want to leave.  When they finally say it out loud, I want to agree. “Okay, I’ll be your teacher forever!”   There is something about children that captures my heart.  All children.  As I sit in my classroom and look at their empty desks, I think about saying goodbye.  The joy that will come with returning home will be accompanied by the sorrow of separation from these wonderful kids.  I know that I will miss this very special group of children very much.

I realized today, as I sat down to do some paperwork, that I haven’t actually written much about my student teaching experience. I have been so blessed by these children that I want to share some of my experiences in the classroom with you.

I’ve just finished my seventh week, and I’m loving teaching so far.  Even when I’m tired, stressed, or upset, being in the classroom is a blessing.  It is so nice to not dread going to work.  I’m working with a very special group of eight second graders.  Six of them are Brasilian and two are MK’s originally from the States.  They have so much to offer and come to the classroom full of enthusiasm for learning.  It’s been an exciting challenge to think of creative learning experiences that don’t incorporate the technology I became familiar with in my last field experience.

Having full responsibility is incredible!  It’s been so awesome to get to try different styles of instruction with the students.  Most of them are so eager to learn– it’s fun to plan activities for them.  So far, we’ve enjoyed learning fractions with brownies, discovering compound words in Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs, making and painting topographical maps, learning to write, and creating our own prayer books.  Second grade can be such fun!
In other (very exciting) news, David has been asked to be the main speaker at the Middle and High School’s Spiritual Emphasis Retreat at the end of the month, so he’s working hard to prepare 4 messages on the book of James.  He’s gotten to know all of the students, so he’s really looking forward to this awesome opportunity!

Our time in Brazil is just about half way over– we can hardly believe it!  We’re so excited to see what the next half of our time here holds.  Thank you for your prayers.  We look forward to sharing (and hearing!) stories of God’s faithfulness, mercy, and grace when we return.

We love you.

Saudades

Saudade. Say it. (sah-ooh-dah-jee)

Today as I sat in parent-teacher conferences, I imagined what it would be like if I could magically speak Portuguese. Because I know some Spanish, I can usually get the gist of what is being said, but my heart ached as I longed to tell the parents of my students how much I loved having them in class…..and how much I know I will miss them when I go back to the states.

Though my dream of magically learning Portuguese has not come true yet, elements of the language will stay with me, just like memories of my students will.

Saudade. This is a word I am determined to work into my vocabulary. It is working so far. Saudade does not really have an English equivalent. It means that you miss something so much you ache. Today, as I stood in the teachers room at lunch time, it hit me. I have saudades for the States. Last night, our fridge broke. Needless to say, it was a smelly situation when I opened that baby up this morning. As I lay on my bed in my apartment, trying to think of what to make for dinner, my mind started to wander. This week has not been an easy one. For some reason, I have been feeling saudades a lot more than usual. I have longed for the company of dear friends at home, for a familiar school system, for familiar faces and languages at Church on Sunday. The last few days have been days that make me feel saudades for America, because that is what I am used to. It is where I am from. In America, refrigerators work, familiar faces abound, I know the language, I know the customs. It is home.

Today, as I lay on my bed, I asked myself a question. Do I have saudades for heaven? When the week has been hard, when I do not have the energy and the strength to do what is required of me, when I am broken by the brokenness I see in my students, myself, and others around me, do I despair? Or, do I feel saudades for heaven and eagerly participate in the coming of God`s Kingdom now? When things are wonderful, do I glory in the moment only, or do I feel a twinge of saudades, knowing that Heaven will be even better?

This week, I have been praying that God will do his work through me in the lives of my students. I have been asking him to help me participate in his work here. To love the way he loves. To teach the way he would teach. His way. The way it should be.

As you feel saudades for your friends in other places, (India…Brasil…) feel free to send them packages, and allow your saudades to remind you to long for heaven.

Supper Club

It’s late, and I should be going to bed soon, but the delightful memories of tonight are making it hard to focus on the lesson plan in front of me.  Tonight was the first meeting of our supper club.  As I’ve said before, David and I have received an incredible welcome here in Belem.  We’re so blessed to have relationships with so many of the missionaries here.  There are a few, though, that have been especially welcoming to us.  The members of our supper club.

Though tonight was our first official meeting, the idea was born last week at a huge table in our tiny kitchen, over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at 10pm.  How delightful it was to laugh with friends even in the midst of  an interesting move.  I didn’t realize how different it would be to be a “homemaker” in Brazil.  Just a few days later, though, the table has been moved to its rightful place, and our little Brazilian apartment is starting to feel like home.

The banana yellow walls look cheerful, and we finally learned how to work our stove.  We even have a few large bottles for storing clean water.

This evening, as our dear friends packed into the kitchen to finish with the last minute preparations, I quietly thanked God.  As we sat around the table, sharing the food we had each prepared, I smiled.  As each of us shared about our families and laughed over ridiculous stories, I listened, longing to know more about each person around the table.  As we finished off an entire pan of peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars, I was glad to call these girls my friends.  The night was full of conversation and laughter.  This echo-y apartment rang with the sounds of laughter as we shared life with one another.  We heard how Christie came to know the Lord, we heard about Julia’s family, and Anna told us funny stories from her hometown; we’ve created a place in which we can care for one another.

This is exactly what I hoped our home would be…. Turns out it doesn’t matter whether there are curtains on the windows or not.

A Lesson in Inefficiency

“Take this document, and go register with the Federal Police.”  The consulate worker’s instructions seemed so simple.  Little did I know that my experience with the Brazilian Counsulate in Chicago was only the beginning of a lesson in inefficiency.

Step 1 Visit the Federal Police.

On Friday afternoon, Julia, the other student teacher, and I loaded into the Combie van along with a few of the other missionaries here for an adventure to visit the Federal Police.  We had all the documentation we needed to register our temporary visas.  Or so we thought. We quickly learned that this was only the beginning of the adventure.  We left the Federal Police armed with a list and an optimistic attitude.

Step 2. Get online.

First, we needed to get online and hunt through our documentation to fill out two forms.  We print these two forms out, and they show us how much we owe the Government.

Step 3. Pay the bill.

Here in Brasil, you pay all of your bills at the loteria.  Phone bill. Electric bill. Any bill you pay, you get to go stand in a (usually very long) line in the basement of the local Lider or Biggie Benny and take care of it there.   We are fortunate enough to avoid the line and pay right away.  We then get a receipt which we are instructed to take to the Federal Police.

Step 4. Fotos.

Because the two pictures on our passports and visas weren’t enough, we were required to get a different picture taken.  For that, we head over to Castanheiras, the local mall.  We visit a small shop and leave with about ten 3X4 centimeter pictures of ourselves.

Step 5. Paperwork.

There’s MORE paperwork to fill out!  It’s all in Portuguese, but I navigate my way through it fairly well.  I don’t know as much as I would like, but I’m surprised at how easily I figure out what information they’re asking for.  I even write the date correctly, remembering to put the date before the month.

Step 6. Visit the Federal Police.

We load into Tara’s truck to visit the Federal Police again, hoping that we’ve successfully completed our objective, which, is basically an application for an ID card which will certainly not be finished by the time we leave here.  We present all of our documentation, and leave our fingerprints in 3 different places.  Fortunately, ours is a very successful trip, and we leave about an hour and a half later with a thin scrap of paper (the temporary ID card) to prove it!

This is just one of the humorous examples that leaves me in wonder that our Visas were processed at all.  As a person with an affinity for efficiency, it’s been an adventure learning to adjust to this culture.  I’m loving figuring out how things work here.  It’s nice to have to call the waiter over for the check, rather than to feel as though he’s pushing you out the door, and it’s nice to have the clerks at the grocery store cart my groceries for us and not be annoyed if it takes us a while to get out to the car.  It’s nice to relax.  To know that if we miss the first bus, another will be along sometime.  It’s nice to forget what time it is. I’m loving the slower pace of things here.

However, you won’t find me complaining the first time I see that Starbucks Barista hurry to fix me a Grande Raspberry White Mocha in less than 3 minutes.

Family.

“I heard you’re coming to my birthday party tonight.” Eleven-year old Hannah smiled up at me as she gave me a hug during lunchtime.  “Can I come, too?” asked a little girl standing nearby.

“No, It’s just a family party.” Hannah replied, kindly.

Family.

It’s easy to see that this special word means something different to the people here than it does back in the states.  Watching our brothers and sisters care for and live in community with one another here reminds me of the early church.  The beautiful thing is, we don’t just have to watch.  We’re experiencing it.

David and I will only be here for four months.  I was warned in orientation that it would be normal for us to be kept at arm’s length for the duration of our stay.  After seeing loved ones come and go for several years, it’s easy to become very good at being polite while still keeping distance.

By the grace of God, this has been the opposite of our experience; the community here has welcomed us with open arms.   Lately, I’ve been struggling with liking being a Christian.  My heart is broken over the division and hurt that I’ve witnessed in the name of Jesus.
In Belem I find healing.   Here I see hope.  In this little community, I see people loving in the name of Jesus, I see people living in a community, not devoid of conflict, but in a community in which Jesus is bigger than conflict.  Here I see people who actually live as if they believe the mission of God is more important than their personal preference.  Our brothers and sisters here have surrendered their rights, and because they have, they’re free.  They’re free to love with abandon.  The welcome desserts staying cool in our fridge, the borrowed dishes, the list of meal ideas sitting on the counter, the way the teachers serve their students and one another, the hours people have spent talking with and helping us: these are evidences of a love that does not tire, of a hope that does not fade.  The amount of energy that our brothers and sisters here are exerting to welcome us, to get to know us, and to help us become involved here astounds me, but I don’t think it should.  It is in this freedom that Christ calls us to live.  It is in this abandonment that we are able to surrender to and be agents of his love and healing to a broken world.

In this moment, as I sit in our borrowed house, the warm Brazilian air gently blowing through the windows, fireworks exploding outside, I am humbled and very thankful.  The Lord has certainly brought us here to Belem.

Hit the Ground Running…

This has to be the best way to describe our first few days in Brazil.  From the moment we stepped out of the baggage claim area, we have been caught up in the whirlwind of activity that is Amazon Valley Academy.  This tiny school located in northern Brazil is humming with activity, and it seems that anyone who gets very near AVA is swept up in the action.

Whether we’re talking with missionaries from the interior, learning to grocery shop, helping to set up classrooms, sharing meals with other teachers, or  spending time with missionary families, our days have been full.  We have received the sort of welcome that invites us to join in the mission of God here in Belem.

We are excited about our time here– we’ve already seen the hand of God in so many ways, and we’re looking forward to seeing his purposes for us while we are here.

Right now, we’re living in the home of a missionary who is in the states for surgery, but, by the end of next week (maybe) we should be moved into our apartment, which is very near to the school’s campus.  It’s pretty hot here– but the houses are fairly well-ventilated and we take two cold showers per day.  The fruits and veggies are huge and delicious.  So far, I’ve enjoyed a peanut butter and guava jelly sandwich every day for lunch.  YUM. Living in Brazil is taking some adjusting, but God has been faithful, and we know that he will continue to be so.

Please pray that we’ll remain faithful to the Lord as He remains faithful to us, and pray that we will be a blessing to those around us.

School starts on Monday!

Counting Down

ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three TWO….ONE!

I love countdowns.  When I was a kid, I always made countdown paper chains at Christmas, and I always got goosebumps at the countdown to New Years.  The thrill and anticipation that comes with countdowns has always excited me.

I love beginning new adventures, and this adventure is no different.  For, dear friends, in just two weeks and two days, my husband and I will begin a very new adventure.  We’re going to be heading to Para, Brazil for 4 months.  I’ll be completing my student teaching at an international school, and David will be spending a lot of time reading and practicing his Greek.

It’s been quite an adventure to get to this point, and I’m so excited about what is in store for us there.  We’d like to invite you to come along with us on this journey.  We won’t make any promises about how often we’ll update, since we aren’t sure of the internet situation there, but we’ll do our best to keep you in the loop with our lives there.

We value your prayers as we near the end of the countdown– we still have quite a bit to do, including picking up our visas.  Please be praying that these things will come together smoothly.