A letter from Josh Vis
June 2, 2011
The mailman came to the door with an urgent piece of mail. It required a signature. My mother, with whom we have been staying while we awaited our visas, answered the door and signed for it. At first none of us knew what was happening. But when my mom handed me the letter, I knew exactly what it was and what it meant. Our visas had arrived and we were finally moving to Brazil. I felt a good deal of fear as I looked at those visas. When this was all hypothetical, off somewhere in the future, it seemed only exciting, enchanting even. With the visas in my hand, the gravity of it became real to me. I have to learn a new language (Portuguese) and then teach, probably clumsily, another language (Hebrew) in this new language. Kimberly has to make new friends and navigate an enormous city while learning a new language. Mahalia, our 3-year-old daughter, the biggest chatterbox I have ever known (seriously), is going to be thrown into an environment where her biggest asset, her facility with English, will be useless.
A little over a week ago I traveled to Cedar City, Utah, to meet the good people of Community Presbyterian Church. I liked them. They were kind and welcoming, good-humored and thoughtful. I had some great conversations about mission, politics, parenting, and faith. Pastor Guthrie was kind enough to ask me to preach, and the good people of Community Presbyterian listened intently to what I had to say. Not everyone agreed with everything I said, but everyone had a good spirit about it, even when there was disagreement. It was, I think, as it should be. Near the end of the sermon, I said this:
“I have been reading a book on the war in Afghanistan by American writer and filmmaker, Sebastian Junger. Junger was embedded off and on for a little over a year with American troops in Afghanistan at an outpost in the Korengal Valley, a harsh and unforgiving place. Junger’s good friend and co-worker Tim Hetherington, a photojournalist, was with him in Afghanistan, and Hetherington was recently killed in Libya. Junger wrote a very moving tribute, a conversation really, to his friend in Vanity Fair. His admiration for Hetherington is clear. He says at one point:
" ‘Your vision, though. Let’s talk about that. It’s what you wanted to communicate to the world about this story—about every story. Maybe Misrata wasn’t worth dying for—surely that thought must have crossed your mind in those last moments—but what about all the Misratas of the world? What about Liberia and Darfur and Sri Lanka and all those terrible, ugly stories that you brought such humanity to? That you helped bring the world’s attention to?’
"Am I willing to die for Christ’s vision? I don’t know. And I admit that it bothers me that Tim Hetherington was willing to die to document the story of suffering in Libya, and yet I don’t know if I am willing to die for Christ’s vision.”
I still don’t know, but I take some comfort in the fact that my family and I are willing to go to Brazil, with all that such a move entails, for Christ’s vision. And I take comfort in your support, be they prayers, cards, emails, donations, etc. Please pray for a good transition to Brazil, especially for Mahalia. Pray also for our language work and the successful completion of my dissertation. As always, we are grateful to God for your love. We will update you soon about our first experiences in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil.
Joshua, Kimberly and Mahalia
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, Brazil, pages 304 and 306