Lessons from my time in England so far
A recent trip to Edinburgh
Andreas is serving at St John's as an intern on the Diocese of Carlisle IX12 internship program. As well as training and experiencing life at St John's, Andreas also attends the North West Partnership evening course with course tutor Justin Mote, where he learns skills for ministry with around 30 others, focussed primarily upon teaching the Bible.
An experience of living in another country as a whole can develop a person’s character. While you can miss your home, a process occurs in you that shapes you. For example, there is a whole new way of doing things with different cultural rules and even laws of the country! In fact, the longer I’m away from Brazil, the more England emerges with its own wonderful character. And even when comparisons come, I don’t want to be a moral judge about cultural differences. What is convenient or inconvenient in one culture, right or wrong, normal or abnormal, will not be the case everywhere.
It is not surprising that countries have diferences. Paul had written a couple of millennia ago that “to the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one of under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law” at 1 Corinthians 9:20. There seems to be in this verse a bond that allows us to unite as individuals and have a common purpose among believers. This makes us equal before God and this connection comes from our heavenly Father who is Lord of all. As Romans 10:12 comments: “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile” because He “richly blesses all who call on him”.
One thing I have to learn is customs and routines. These relate to the context I’m in, on the west coast of Cumbria, northern England, in a small town called Whitehaven. Things are very different and they have caught my attention. I have enjoyed meeting new people and spending time with them. Being from a different culture, the way they greet each other, even the way people use body language, tell jokes, give presents and address issues and situations is different!
Another experience I’ve had was being unwell and I’ve noticed how physical health is directly related to our emotional health. When it comes to food, I still have to remind myself that people don’t eat black beans, white rice and potato straws like we do in Brazil.
Apart of these minor things, I had the pleasure of learning deeper theological subjects. Compared to my home country where the overwhelming majority attend pentecostal kind of churches, which traditionally have less doctrinal rigor, I have found myself in a lively and biblical community like St John’s Hensingham. It’s been interesting to go deeper into some theological issues. I have found, for instance, that there is no state of dormancy after death where we awake only at the second coming of Christ. Instead, we go to be with Christ immediately. Through the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, we can see the places that await those who died in Christ and those who died away from Him. Believers go straight to Abraham’s side. On another occasion, I learned that the nephilim in Genesis 6 have a reasonable probability of being hybrid species between human women and fallen angels. I also remember productive conversations about singleness and how the psalms speak of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
What God has led me to reflect about lately refers to His character and the way He deals with us. You imagine a conversation between yourself and Almighty God. You imagine opening your mouth and God interrupting you because He is so much higher than us. You prepare a reply and God already has the rejoinder on the tip of his tongue. But this is not the way it works! Interestingly God doesn’t act this way. C. S. Lewis once wrote that “God never speaks like a doctor before a washerwoman”. He is in fact a Father who “inclines his ears”. He is a God who listens to us and speaks in familiar ways. The Bible even says that He changes his mind although He has determined the beginning and the end and controls all things. Likewise I want to be that person overcoming cultural barriers and capable to communicate in a way God desires and people will understand. I am happy to look back and see people’s faith resisting against all sort of aflictions during these five months I’ve been here. My wish is to see forward growing faiths in Christ with people bringing their hearts to a real spirituality. I pray that the God who has given us all these principles and is the God of every culture will abound in all our hearts and be celebrated amongst us.