Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Long Goodbye

Well...we are all home safe and sound but we left a part of our hearts in Vicosa. Here is a brief run down of our last couple of days.

On Friday, we had a great time with the students. We had class in the morning and then spent the afternoon packing and preparing for our departure. Friday night, Sue had planned to make homemade pizza for us. We had gone to the grocery store and tried to find the ingredients she needed. She prepared the dough and let it rise. It then needed to be put into the oven to brown. To our surprise, we had run out of gas. The tanks were empty. So we had six pizza crusts ready to go and no way to cook them. Robson called the gas man and to our surprise (after two calls) they delivered gas on a Friday night by motorcycle! The pizza was finished and it was a hit. After dinner, it was ‘tissue time’. The students had worked on a video montage for us....for the ‘Wonderful Women’ as they affectionately called us. It was a whirlwind of emotions going from crying, one moment, as the reality of our leaving took hold, and in the next moment, we would be hysterically laughing as we remembered some of our more humorous moments.

On Saturday morning we treated the students to an American style breakfast. Again, Sue gifted us with her baking talents and she made cinnamon rolls from scratch (it was an adventure in itself just to figure out what yeast and cinnamon was called here). I made pancakes complete with maple syrup (thanks to Aunt Jemima and Log Cabin brought all the way from the US) and chocolate chip pancakes with powdered sugar (also imported from the US). The students were thrilled...and to be perfectly honest, the US team enjoyed having a taste of home as well.
On Saturday afternoon we went to the city to so some shopping and then it was time to come back to the house and get ready or graduation. Because the team was taking the overnight bus back to Rio we had to be completely packed before we left for the ceremony.

The graduation was held at CEM, the missionary training school that we partnered with to provide this immersion experience. We started with worship, led by the students. Then, Robson spoke. It was beautiful. He talked for 15–20 minutes, all in English. He talked about how the program had helped him with his English but more than that how God had used it to change his life. He finished with showing the video so those at the graduation could get a feel for not only what our last two weeks were like but what the entire program was like.
I was able to share what a privilege it had been for us to be a part of the this program...that I was not there only representing Team Three, but Team One , Team Two and Living Word. The students received their certificates, an English Bible and then we had a time of brief time of fellowship.

Afterwards it was time to go back to the house, load the van with all the luggage and go to the bus station. That meant the last goodbye for the team and four of the students. I can’t adequately explain what this is like. I know it seems impossible that after two short weeks you could build the kind of relationships that make it that difficult and painful to leave but it happens. I think it is the combination of living in community and the fact that we all share a passion for our God. The bonding is close and saying goodbye, knowing that most likely we will never see each other again this side of heaven, is very emotional.

We went to bus station accompanied by three of the students that would be traveling with us to Rio to catch their flights to Central American and two students who would be going back to house. So...another long goodbye ensued. Shortly after 11 pm we were on our way. Some cried quietly in their seats hoping that sleep would soon overtake them. It was especially hard on the three gals traveling with us as they were saying goodbye to their housemates of six weeks. After a long might of traveling, we arrived at the Rio de Janeiro airport at 6:30 am.
We found a little place to hang out...11 of us with 15 pieces of luggage. And so began our 16 ½ hour wait for our overnight flight. The time passed easily as we played games, shopped and ate (plus our mini showers in the bathrooms).

At 7 pm, we said yet another goodbye as Irene and Cristy left for Guatemala and Carol left for Mexico. The US team boarded at 11:00pm and landed in Atlanta at 8 am where we had one more difficult goodbye. Sue was leaving us she was flying back to Detroit (she arrived later than planned as she gave up her seat to a military man who had not been home in two years!) The rest of the team left Atlanta and landed in BWI at noon. No delays, no lost luggage.

We had a wonderful trip, a wonderful program and are excited to see what God will do with EnglishBridge in the future. The program has come to be so much more than just a format to teach English. For some reason God has used it to intervene and change the hearts of those who allow Him to do whatever He wishes in their lives. I have witnessed amazing transformations in both the students and the teams. It is an amazing, beautiful combination of language learning, community and spiritual transformation. It has been one of the most amazing experiences of my live to be involved in this program.

And, let me take this opportunity to say what a wonderful team I had. The ‘Wonderful Women’ were truly that. Thank you for trusting me to lead you on this journey. I know that the time was very meaningful for some of you as God stirred some things up. I encourage you to continue the work He has started.

So, it is with joy and sadness that I close this chapter of EnglishBridge. I look forward with anticipation to what God will continue to do in and through this program. Thank you for joining us.

God Bless,


i_am_4given said...

I enjoyed reading your posts, even though I may not have commented on each one of them. Your description of what was going on, I wanted to let you know that I truly appreciated it. And I want to thank you.