How's the youth group? the church? the weekly Bible Study? The young adult's study? the children's club? One word sums it up: growing. Recently I started shopping to keep the church stocked with snacks for the kids club and for the coffee hour after worship. But we keep running short on cookies and cups. It's because more people keep coming.
Last Sunday we had the joy of hearing four dear friends profess their faith in Jesus and the privilege of watching them be baptized. It was beautiful. That day five others joined the church, too. And the sister church in Mercedes will also be partnering with us until they are more independent. Our missions team just expanded when we added two young adults, members of Reformed Churches in Brazil, who are here to help with the youth group and kids club for a few months. We just keep growing.
The youth group met last night and had a great time of study and fun. They exchanged gifts and ate pizza until almost midnight. Then Mark and Mauricio took them all home. The group of kids is a nice mix of Brazilians, Americans, and Uruguayans. Our goal is to establish a Reformed Uruguayan Church, not necessarily a multi cultural church, but we gladly welcome people from other countries who have settled in Montevideo. This includes friends from Peru, Columbia, Argentina, and Chile.
What have we been doing the past few months? The haze of the first year has finally cleared, and we are in the middle of ministry, ready or not. Mark is preaching more often, teaching Bible Study and continuing to lead the worship team. Once a week he meets with a tutor to study advanced Spanish grammar which greatly improves his preaching. He also meets people weekly for discipleship in our home. We are traveling more frequently, too, as we work with the new group in Mercedes. When Mark teaches their Bible study, he doesn't get home until 2 in the morning. Tomorrow morning, Sunday, we'll all leave at 6am to get to the service on time.
The kids have been taking their final exams and working on research papers and projects. I'm so proud of each one of them and how far they've come this year. I can't believe some of the exams they just completed, and all of them in Spanish. Can you imagine physics, chemistry and algebra finals in a second language? Sabrina and Joshua are on summer break now and Julia and Isaiah have one more week left. They've grown physically, too, and now three of them are taller than I am.
I have two more classes left in my web design computer class. I love taking a class in Spanish. I've learned a whole new set of vocabulary. I've also learned how to build a web site and maintain it. The next step is working on our church web site www.ipuy.org.uy as well as helping the Mercedes group get one running, too.
We've finally moved from point A to B in our visa process. We can stay here legally for at least 3 more years on a "temporary residency" before we need to come up with a new plan. We may need to show some Uruguayan income to get permanent residency. But, a friend and I are working on offering English classes to local businesses as well as translating Christian books. So, that may help us out. It will not be much income, but hopefully it will be enough to prove to migrations that we are settled here.
As I think about this past year, I am thankful for the friends we have in church, the friends we have in our neighborhood, and our connections at the kids' school. If I compare our major transitions from New Jersey to California to Costa Rica to Uruguay, our transition to Uruguay has been the hardest but also the most rewarding and satisfying.
I've had to fight hard and push myself harder to get where I am now, one year later. I've had to battle real fears: saying stupid things in Spanish, failing to get permanent residency on our first try, being very cold all winter, extreme exhaustion from the increased physical demands of maintaining the home, not understanding the simple things people say to me, serious misunderstandings with a teacher at school, getting attacked in broad daylight two blocks from home, feeling like I really don't belong here.
And here I am, feeling more at home and excited about what is happening at church. I'm also thrilled with our new friendships. How am I doing? I'm still fighting. And I'm growing... Growing spiritually and feeling a little stronger after one of the hardest years of my life.