It’s been so long since I updated my blog that I feel it really is a discredit to the glory of God, because the fact is that He has been working in my family’s lives – a lot – and I simply have not taken time to sit down and praise His work in my blog. So, this is going to be a too-little, too-late testimony, with sketchy details because some of His marvelous blessings have already slipped through the sieve of my memory.
I am writing from the comfort of spacious environs in Joaçaba, Brazil. Just a couple of months ago, I was in rural Arkansas, stressing about meeting magazine deadlines, and daring to let my mind wander to what it might be like to live in Brazil. Though it was no secret that we were going to take a nine-month sabbatical from American life, I didn’t flagrantly count down the days on Facebook or anything because I respect too much this truth: “In her heart, a woman plans her course, but the Lord determines her steps” (Prov. 16:9). And so I also did plenty of this: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do,” so that my plans would succeed (Prov. 16:3).
An American family choosing to spend six months in Joaçaba is somewhat like an Italian family deciding to come to the United States for six months and make their home base Russellville, Ark. It begs the question, “Why?” Indeed, we could have gone anywhere for this sabbatical, with certain political exceptions. From the very beginning, I began to pray for God to open and close doors according to His will and make the decision for us. I had some basic criteria, but somewhere along the way, (I admit, not in proper order) I surrendered that too, and just said, “We’ll go where you want us to go, God, OR, we’ll stay home if you want that too.”
I knocked on a lot of doors, I won’t go into detail (even the ones I can remember), but nothing opened. If the opportunity was right, one member of the family was resistant to the choice of country. Even when we unanimously agreed on Brazil, there didn’t seem to be any volunteer endeavor we could participate in without paying way more than it actually costs to live in Brazil; knowing the language upon arrival; or committing to a two-year stay. The main lure to Brazil was to live near and be a support and encouragement to a young couple in ministry in the small town of Joaçaba, Eliezer and Cristiane Zamora.
The friendship between my family and theirs has now involved four generations, beginning between Eli’s father and my grandmother, and most recently developing between his daughter, Vanessa, and my son Chaise, both three years old. I wonder at how the destinies of the South American Zamora family and North American Anderson-Schillinger families have intertwined over more than 25 years and at what the next 25 might bring for us. Our stay in Brazil has certainly added a new dimension to the relationship – the closest, not only geographically (we live two blocks apart), but also in camaraderie. Chaise and Vanessa are bestest buddies, for sure!
Besides introducing another generation of our families to each other, what other purpose do we have in Brazil? I dunno! Another of my favorite proverbs is: “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (Prov. 20:24). Probably only with the benefit of several decades of hindsight will we begin to understand what our purpose is here. Nonetheless, I can’t help but speculate, and so I’ve started a list of 100 Possible Reasons Why God May Have Brought Us to Brazil. Many of them include situations and people I am praying for now – people and things I never would have been aware of had I not come to live here.
Whereas I have no substantive clue how God is using us here, I can see pretty clearly His handiwork in our circumstances. Just like when we first moved to Clarksville, our path here has been made straight. Let me just list 10 ways (off the top of my head, in no particular order) that we’ve seen God’s hand of constant care in our circumstance here:
- We found a wonderful place to live on the first day of searching – within our budget and just two blocks from church and the Zamoras.
- Despite not being able to “legally” sign up for utilities and Internet service because we don’t have the all-powerful Brazilian identification card that’s needed to take a squat here, we have electricity, water and wireless Internet.
- Between two church families, we were loaned a Razor cell phone and a SIM card on a prepaid phone – so we have a cell phone, in addition to our Skype line, which rings into our computer. We are able to be touch, locally and internationally, by phone – at very little cost to us.
- Gwen enrolled in ballet at a studio owned by a Presbyterian woman (only about 10% of people here are Protestant); and there are two girls in her class that speak some English, so she’s made friends and been able to understand how to improve her pirouettes, pliés and pas de chat.
- Despite only being in dance for about a month, Gwen got to dance two consecutive Saturdays in the annual recital, as a willy in a piece from Giselle – she was a giddy willy (hee hee).
- We met with the principle of the Lutheran school here and she agreed to let Gwen enroll when school starts again in February. So Gwen will get to experience being an “exchange” student for two and a half months, and it’s a given that she will leave here with better Portuguese than the rest of her family combined!
- Pastor Eli offers free guitar lessons on Tuesday nights and Gwen and I have both joined. I have wanted to learn to play the guitar for almost 30 years!
- We left a backpack full of groceries and our cell phone at the bus stop one day. We didn’t realize it for almost an hour, and yet, everything was returned to us.
- Chaise has Vanessa, Natalia and several other fun friends at church. He is very comfortable and happy here.
- Gwen has made friends in the church youth and now on Sunday afternoons, the youth (and me too!) play volleyball – my all-time favorite sport and something Gwen has wanted to learn to play.
Truly everything is coming up roses for the Schillingers. That’s not to say that there are no thorns. But honestly, most of them are not related to living in Brazil, but to years of distraction, neglect and lack of discipline that were part of our American lifestyles – things I very much looked forward to being able to address in the intentionally slowed pace of our sabbatical.
For a lot more about our sabbatical experience, please visit our Family Brazil Blog – lots of pictures and posts from the whole family.