A letter from Kim Vis in Brazil
After a great holiday season in the States with family, we are back in the swing of things here in Brazil. We have transitioned back to life here rather easily, but we appreciate continued prayer for our adaptability in transition. Mahalia loves school and has made friends easily. She is an eager learner and we are continually impressed with her ability to handle the differences between the two cultures. She celebrates her 5th birthday this month and we are so proud of her. Luciana is now 4 months old and is working hard on rolling, drooling, babbling, smiling and sleeping. The two girls keep us busy but are also a source of joy. Mahalia adores her little sister and it appears the feeling is mutual as Luciana is always happy to reward Mahalia’s antics with a smile.
I am still looking for my niche here in Brazil but I am optimistic opportunities will arise this year. I appreciate your continued prayers for doors to open in areas where I might use my gifts and talents. In the meantime, I enjoy my days in our neighborhood with the girls. Luciana enjoys being outside a lot so we take daily walks, usually two or three a day. About three times a week we walk past two elderly women who always stop me to talk to “the doll baby.” For many Brazilians, Luciana resembles an actual toy doll and it is a regular occurrence for her to be called a doll. As in English, “doll” can be a term of endearment in Portuguese. However, Brazilians think Luciana looks literally like a doll, so much so that one older man said he thought she was actually a doll when he first saw her. After a short conversation the women wish us a good day and continue on their walk. I think they both are struggling with memory loss because our conversation is always the same. Nonetheless, I am always happy to see them smile as they tickle Luciana’s toes and she rewards them with a grin.
Josh is teaching a course Theologies of the Old Testament this semester. He has nine students in his class. For his class he is having the students read Walter Brueggemann’s book Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy as well as the entire Old Testament. His class is spent largely in open discussion and dialogue about the readings. It is a bit challenging for Josh to facilitate stimulating conversations among the students, but his Portuguese is constantly progressing. In addition to his course he is offering an elective Hebrew Reading course for students interested in improving their Hebrew. He appreciates your prayers as he prepares for his classes and helps his students develop new insights into the Old Testament.
Looking ahead, it is hard to believe our three-year term will be completed in December of this year. At the end of every term mission co-workers are asked to spend a period of time in the States visiting churches and sharing our mission. For us this will be in January 2014 through June 2014. If you would be interested in hearing more about our ministry in Brazil, please let us know. We are anxious to talk with you about what we are doing here and what you are doing there. We will share more about our time in States in upcoming newsletters, but it is never too early to begin planning.
As always we appreciate your support and well wishes for our family here in Brazil. I end with a short story:
I was lost. Not totally, since I knew I could retrace my steps and get back to where I initially started. I was downtown São Paulo by myself for an appointment. After the appointment I was told to head four blocks in the opposite direction in which I came and I would end up at a metro station. I did this, but no metro station. After several blocks of walking I finally decided to ask for help. Fortunately, I can do this now in Portuguese. A woman about my age told me to wait where I was. She was going to bring her daughter across the street to school and then would direct me to the station. I waited, and when she returned she told me I was no longer close to where I wanted to be. When we returned to the street that the metro station was located on she pointed me in the right direction and I thanked her for her time and help. But we didn’t part ways there. She continued to walk with me for three more blocks and delivered me to the entrance of the metro station. I thanked her again, kissed her cheek and waved bye.
She stopped her day to help me, a stranger. She put aside her agenda to help someone in need. It was such a simple act of kindness, and yet it resonated in me a desire to be better, kinder. The next time I was downtown São Paulo, there was a man asking for money for a metro ticket to get home, so I bought him a ticket. Maybe he was going home, maybe he was going someplace else. Either way, I felt good about my small deed. The small act of kindness directed toward me by the woman in turn affected another person.
There is a vulnerability that comes with living outside of your culture. This vulnerability is both scary and liberating. Ever so subtly, you begin to think that perhaps we really all are in this together. Maybe we can love one another. Maybe there is more to life than a job, a family, a house. I am continually impressed by the kindness we have received here in Brazil. Brazilians are wonderfully welcoming and affectionate people. Their way of being in the world is contagious.
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 37
Read more about Josh and Kim Vis' ministry