By Filipe Almeida
A friend recently challenged me to write about what I have learned from the events of my life in recent years. I confess that I thought the exercise of putting this on paper would be easier, but it wasn’t exactly like that. I even tried to systematize, but “the call” to try to do this in a natural and reflective way was stronger. It was two weeks of reflection with thoughts that I had had before, but also new understandings.
I believe that something clear that I have learned is about the possibilities of making plans, but that when making the plans I need to be prepared for the geographical changes, of teams, people, personalities, cultures, diets and new languages. It is also necessary to be prepared for comings and goings, refusals (literally), “feeling at home” in another culture and “not and feeling so at home” in my own culture (Prov. 16.1).
I have learned how the Lord has spoken to me, taught me and shaped me. The Lord has done this by helping me to break paradigms that I had because I grew up in a very traditional context, both family and ecclesiastical. The Lord has done this by helping me to grow in confidence, to establish myself in Him each day as “the portion of my strength and strength of my life” (as a song says). The Lord has done this by helping me to overcome my shyness, that shyness that has accompanied me since I was a boy and that has already prevented me from doing several things, from the simplest and most fun, to the most serious and connected to His Kingdom.
I have learned to seek dialogue and not feed the ‘hate speech’ that is unfortunately common in the world today. I have learned that I must maintain my positions, including those that are intrinsically linked to Social Justice and the refugee cause. I have learned to respect the opinions and positions of others and that I must not or need to say that those who think differently from me are wrong and / or need to change. I have learned the exercise of reflection, of challenging listening to what is different for me, both in terms of cultural differences and political positions, and even though maintaining my positions, seek the balance to contribute to a healthy life in community and to a non-colonizing society.
Another important lesson is about working with international teams. It has been an exercise in humility. An exercise in listening to the other in a language other than mine and a different way of thinking than mine. An exercise that some of my ideas may not be well understood, just as I don’t fully understand the opinions and ideas of others from other cultures. It is an exercise in remembering what it is like to be part of the community of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the greatest example of humility. It is an exercise that leads me to think that if I look at Jesus, if I am patient and a good listener, and the rest of the team do the same, in the end we will make good decisions, with literal laughter and no traces.
These past few years have been so challenging, in addition to the pandemic several other episodes have happened in my life. Episodes that sometimes almost made me give up on taking a next step. But I can’t help but remember that each of these events has given me such good feelings, new friendships, a new way of dealing with circumstances and making decisions (and risks!). I have learned how it is necessary to give grace to myself in the face of each new challenge and learning. I have learned how my worldview can change over the course of three years, but that my historical horizon also adds significantly to these new experiences. All of this impels me to do something new, to participate in something new and even if I am afraid, I don’t stop and walk forward and if the doors open, I will enter.
I cannot fail to mention how I have learned from the birds of the sky. With sparrows with branches in their beaks. With the different songs of the birds that moved me several times. I have learned to look at heaven and see how the Lord is glorified through His creation. How He loves the creation He created and how He loves and cares for me (Mt. 6. 26). I have learned how pedaling a bicycle in different countrysides with birds around can generate sincere prayers, from a guy who needs every day of the Father’s love, direction and mercy.
These are some of the deep learnings that I have lived, being showered with ups and downs, for some moments of doubts and fears and for other moments of joy and courage. I have learned to walk with the Father in this adventure of life that He has given me. I have learned every day to refine my faith and improve my sense and purpose of life. I have learned to live and remember the verse in Isaiah 43. 18-19.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.” NVI.
These are some of my reflections on this question that my dear friend asked. It is good to feel that the Lord has helped me to understand these steps and to reframe my experiences. This is our Father! A loving Father who allows us to go through different situations, both good and bad, and thus learn more from Him and from ourselves for His glory and the manifestation of His kingdom in our lives and through our lives.
I would like to encourage you to reflect on what you have learned in the last years of your life. Regardless of where you are and where you’ve been, I’m sure you can have good insights. I encourage you to write about it and thus bless other people as well. May the Lord use you in this way and may your experiences, even with risks, be filled with the presence and joy coming from the Father!