You would think that we missionaries would be experts at moving around. Right? The truth is that some adjustments have been relatively painless, but in most cases it has taken me a while to adapt to my new surroundings. Early in our career we moved from the metropolis of São Paulo to the little town of Petrolina in NE Brazil. In São Paulo we had many friends, both Brazilian and American, and we had access to all the benefits of a big city. Living in SP was so much like the city where I’d grown up (Taipei, Taiwan) that I didn’t experience much culture shock when we arrived as newlyweds.
But our move seven years later was more traumatic. Suddenly I had no friends. The heavy Northeastern accent made me feel like I was learning Portuguese all over again. There was no mall, no McDonald’s, no movie theatre. (What were our little boys and I going to do for entertainment?) The 100 degree daily temps, the desert-like surroundings, and the water rationing were a challenge. There was no grass anywhere. The flora and fauna for which Brazil is famous were glaringly absent.
One morning, as I walked and prayed (i.e. complained), I saw a vulture on a pile of garbage and said, “Lord, Brazil has the most beautiful birds in the world. How could you possibly send me to a place that only has two colorless varieties: vultures and sparrows? And it seemed to me that He gently said, “And which one are you?”
“Are you going to be a vulture determined to devour those around you when you don’t get your way? Or are you going to be a sparrow who trusts Me in every circumstance?” Thankfully, that was the turning point. As I surrendered my disappointments and hopes to Him, He flooded my heart with peace. After that we enjoyed many years of fruitful ministry (and, yes, lots of fun times with the boys.)