Strains of Portuguese

Arriving early, I heard voices coming from the fellowship hall in the basement of the church.  I followed the strains of singing and realized I was stepping into a Christian Education class in Portuguese.  What followed was an excellent reminder of what it means to be on the outside linguistically.  While I was greeted warmly and spoke with many of the class participants afterwards (in English), the class was specifically taught in Portuguese.

Located in front of the Presbyterian Church of Rio this sculpture commemorates the first Protestant communion celebrated in Brazil.

Before I moved to New England I was unaware of the large population of Presbyterians in Brazil.  With many Brazilians immigrating to the US, Brazilian Presbyterian Congregations have sprung up as well.  I’ve gotten to know some of these churches and their leaders and it has been a wonderful privilege.

 Here are some of the things I learned or was reminded of as I sat through the Sunday school class and then joined the church for worship.

First, the little things help.  A smile, the quick comment in English so I’m in the right part of the bible, or the simple introduction that was provided, all made me feel much less of an outsider.

Second, it is so easy to get distracted when you can’t fully follow what is happening.  I may have appeared indifferent or bored, but it is just difficult to stay engaged even when you understand every fourth or fifth word.  Furthermore, I couldn’t contribute to the conversation and with this point of contact lost it was even easier to disengage.

Third, despite the language barrier, it was encouraging to watch these brothers and sisters in Christ study the bible and talk through its implications.  I know that Christianity is a global religion that is increasingly non-white, but it is good to be reminded of the broad scope of people God is working in.

Fourth, the lesson was on evangelism (sharing your faith with others).  Regardless of our cultural differences we have many of the same struggles.  We all need encouragement as well as further training.  It is comforting to know that God is patiently working in his children throughout the world.

I also heard the wonderful stories of God’s provision for the church through the gift of their church building.  An aging Finnish congregation wanted to see the word of God continue reaching the immigrant populations in Quincy….  more for another time.

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