Este Fin de Semana

K… I wrote this like 2 weeks ago and was trying to translate it into Spanish. It was taking WAY too long, so I decided to just post it…

My ever present vice didn’t abandon me last night: I didn’t embrace responsibility and sleep at a reasonable time. I stayed up very late watching movies. Unfortunately this weekend pattern means I often miss my weekly church gathering. Morning services present a difficult adjustment for me. I love my new church community, but weekends are my time to relax and catch up on sleep too (I take “day of rest” quite literally :)). I’ve never been a morning person. It takes my brain a few hours to function at normal capacity. Without divine intervention I’m not spiritually sensitive in the mornings. My deepest and most transformational thoughts and actions typically take place beyond noon or late at night. I admit I’m a grumpy zombie in the mornings!

I missed the chance to connect with my Colossae family this morning. My only consolation was wonderful sleep! I woke up not wishing to miss out on fellowship entirely and looked forward to meet new friends at Iglesia El Buen Pastor. Their service time of 5:30 gives me the glorious ability prepare mentally and spiritually. I arrived over an hour early and watched the musical praise team practice and joined in their prayer time. The skill level of the musicians during practice struck me. They have so much energy, skill, and ethnic flavor!

I discern already that Pastor Rubén Castro is a man of prayer, a strength I highly respect. He welcomed me as soon as he saw me sitting in the back. I was welcomed by many others as well. Pastor Rubén graciously introduced me during the service and told the story of my desire to learn Spanish and imminent visit to Peru. There were a number of first time visitors, and we all got a cool gift. I am humbled by their warm welcome and felt accepted as part of the family. Any fears I had are gone, and I look forward to pursuing this relationship unhindered. I can’t wait to see my Spanish speaking brothers and sisters again next week. If you are looking for a Spanish speaking church family to visit in Beaverton, I highly recommend Iglesia El Buen Pastor.

“You can’t help but dance because it’s so festive!”

I loved singing in Spanish. There’s something special about worship music in Central and South American countries. The style and tempo are addictive, and the people generally sing with more energy and passion. I have difficulty with self-awareness regarding expressive worship when I look around and see no one moving or appearing passionate. I don’t want to stand out. It’s so much easier to be free and less self-conscious when others set a precedent of freedom and expression.

Ironically I am less distracted and more focused when singing and hearing prayers in other languages than in English. Isn’t that weird?! Even though I don’t understand all that’s being said, I feel more connected with the Spirit of the words. I was powerfully moved by every aspect of the gathering today.

My understanding of Spanish is very limited. I probably understand a quarter of spoken words at full speed from speakers on the stage, which isn’t always enough to derive the meaning of whole sentences. I wanted to share basic conversations in Spanish with those around me, but failed miserably today. I understood maybe half or two-thirds of what people said to me (I don’t feel too bad, since I’ve never studied Spanish). I couldn’t summon responses quickly and was glad that many people knew English. Otherwise my awkward silence and stumbling wasn’t stifling. I refuse to get too comfortable and will focus on learning some conversational phrases.

Several people offered me their translation service via an audio device – a very welcoming and progressive service. I politely declined because I want to wrestle with Spanish. It would be hard to pull words out of the Spanish while my ears are drowned out with English. Even the translator admitted this processing is difficult, and he’s perfectly fluent! It’s better to sacrifice what I might receive from the message for a time until I am proficient in listening and thinking in Spanish. Hopefully I’ll be able to quickly learn some conversational phrases so I don’t rely too much on the proficiency of people’s English. I’m not looking for accommodation!

Portuguese responses kept coming to mind today. At least twice I caught myself saying, “Obrigado” instead of “Muchas Gracias” and mixed up “Mucho Gusto” with “Muchas Gracias”. Ha, ridiculously bad! I’m pretty sure I can’t learn and retain multiple languages. When I learn a third language, the second quickly fades away. Sometimes even my English seems to fade, as if my brain’s database has a limited number of records!

I remember almost zero French from high school. When I tried to recall the French, I spoke it using Portuguese pronunciation rules. The same will probably happen as I learn Spanish. I predict my Portuguese knowledge will soon be a distant memory. I envy people with enhanced or natural ability to learn multiple languages. I enjoy connecting with other cultures, but I have no special linguistic ability.

I translated this blog post into Spanish just for practice. I could have pasted the whole thing into Google Translate, but then I’d learn nothing. I welcome your corrections to my poor translation. My original English text is included in case my Spanish is so bad that you can’t tell what I’m trying to say! I primarily employ a word-for-word translation using a dictionary and verb conjugation book. I don’t know enough Spanish to replace whole phrases with more communicative thought-for-thought equivalents.

Situación de Vida 2

I already get the impression this idea of moving in with Hispanic people might prove progressive and new to most ears and difficult to cultivate acceptance of. Having the idealist and weirdo creative heart that I do (often to a fault), I admit it’s going to be discouraging to be met with such immediate and palpable skepticism… even a lack of grace to even hear me out or wait long enough to form an educated opinion (or prayerfully consider). Even so, I fully understand the caution and reservation. The idealist side of me simply wishes it “didn’t have to be that way”.

I feel this is something bigger than just right now. This discovery might be something God develops in my heart and skill set over a lifetime starting now (well actually, it’s been going on inside me for several years, building up). I might not see huge fruit for several months or even years.

I see HUGE HUGE, HUGE, HUGE separation between ethnic groups and seemingly no desire to cross the lines and walls. Well, I for one can’t settle for that! I see it as a shame, and it’s not entirely “white man’s” fault. People of every nationality and background naturally congregate toward other like people. It doesn’t mean we hate each other, but it does mean we prefer comfort and ease over growth and diversity. I’m tired of that! No more for me!

For those that don’t want to grow in unity, I don’t judge them. It’s not everyone’s calling to pursue cross-cultural ministry. People can serve and follow Christ just as well where they are, amongst like people, and they are not disobedient or less Christ-like. However, having received (not generated) these thoughts and deep passions, I feel I would be disobedient to ignore or qualm them, or even to accept fear – from others or myself – as defeat.

This might mean that nothing happens over the next year when I hope to move in with some people. I can see it would take a very special type of person to consider this option. It might take several years of trust building before such a simple thing is possible or “culturally acceptable”. I won’t easily forget the idea though. Who knows, it might become part of the Spirit’s movement to reconcile His diverse Body back into one.

Shall we sit across the room from the “Gentiles” at separate tables because our influential friends are looking? Far be it from us! Even the apostle Peter was rebuked openly for doing this! I’m not even a Jew, so if there was excuse for distinction (which there is NOT), I have none. I’m a Gentile along with every other, and even that eons old wall of hostility is demolished in Christ!

It’s super easy for me to find a roommate from my own culture – I just ask around at church, at work, or even go on Craigslist and find a thousand friendly and willing strangers. Not one person would think I was freaky, creepy or imposing for seeking shared housing. It’s not a new or shocking idea. Just last night I scrolled through hundreds upon hundreds of craigslist ads written by people seeking roommates to save money. But for some odd (and annoying) reason – and this irks me – the idea of rooming with people from another culture is questioned and frowned upon as if some weird and dark motives are surely involved? WHAT?! Why can’t it be natural and even quite desirable? I surely desire it. It sounds like an awesome adventure, and not even that big of a deal! I really thought the goal was to overcome segregation, not question any movement that challenges it! And this coming from conservative white boy extreme! OK, I’m calm: don’t worry. Deep breath. But I admit frustration that this should be difficult. It seems basic to me.

I want to be a vessel to deconstruct some of this stone cold wall that separates us. Whether with my Hispanic brothers and sisters or some other culture (or my “own” – though I don’t like the distinction), I hope to be a catalyst for the opening of eyes, the softening of hearts. My heart has been broken a hundred times, and I assume a hundred more. My eyes have been partially opened as Saul to Paul, and more so every day that I submit my pride to the caring (yet stern) hands of my heavenly Father and His living and abiding Spirit in me. Stubbornness and selfishness are my only horrid bedfellows to make me stumble on the path. I’ve nothing but grown and learned through every painful step, and boy has this fragile heart seen pain! I consider it an honor and privilege if I inspire another person to consider some of the same. Many around me are already doing crazy stuff that cuts my heart to the quick, challenging me to consider deeper trust and faith in Christ. I say thank you!

Following Christ wasn’t meant to be easy. In fact we are promised the opposite repeatedly in Scripture. The only promise I’m aware of that resembles ease, comfort or “prosperity” comes through obeying and following Jesus. And trust me, He goes some places we wouldn’t dare go! This call to obedience, with it’s associated eternal and immediate blessings, often means patience through difficult, faith-building circumstances, and this life long, and sometimes blind! Even the hall of faith members in the book of Hebrews faced much trouble and never saw the promises stored up for fulfillment long after their deaths, promises for us. Should we expect “better” before we listen and follow? Must all the stars align to be our stepping stones?

Persecution, challenges and martyrdom are not goals to seek out as if virtuous. Nevertheless, if obedience and following Christ are accompanied with pain and difficulty (I believe such a coupling is an eternal promise and principle), we must throw off both sin and comfort that might hinder – as short or long as we are granted breath! I’ve done precious little to baby step myself along this path, but I’m not about to stop inching along, hopefully a giant stride or two here and there!

On an encouraging note, I talked to a pastor of a local Hispanic congregation over the phone today. While my housing proposition probably came across like a freak show, at least I made enough of an introduction to receive an invitation to join them for their Sunday service. Sweet! I can’t wait. I’ve been dreaming of this for a couple years and have been lazy to pursue it. Fortunately the service time allows me to both continue attending with my new Colossae family and to also thrive in an evening environment, connecting with some estranged family members with slightly different hair, skin, accent and traditions. Yeah! Let’s do it!

Lord, help me to learn Spanish expediently. It’s about time I put some serious effort into it, but even that is a loss without Your special aid. You know my rusty brain inside and out. Attune it to absorb and learn for the glory of Christ and the unity of Your people.

Situación de Vida

I’m not going to write anything lengthy or profound tonight. Straight to the basics.

My lease is up in about 5 weeks, and I’m planning something unique. I want to learn Spanish, particularly so I can speak to people in Peru if and when I visit my sister’s family there.

I want to rent a room from a Hispanic family near my work. I will contact at least one Spanish speaking church in the area to develop a relationship and to begin my search for housemates hopefully with their help.

I believe God is the creative One who gave me this idea, so I assume He will provide according to His plan. I would never think of such a cool idea by myself! It’s like an immersion exchange program in another country, but right in this neighborhood! I can’t wait! (though there will be challenges – I need those!) I need to find some very patient people. It’s kind of a weird thing to ask of total strangers. It is cool being part of the Church… I know there are brothers and sisters in every tribe and tongue, and I have every desire to treat them the same as those who share my name, blood and language. Hopefully I can find someone to welcome this weirdo American dude.

This is beyond my ability to accomplish. I have ideas on where to look, but only God can arrange it well. Please pray for me.