Hey friends, it’s official – I’ve lasted over a week in Argentina! And I’ve definitely had a week’s worth of adventures – from late night Oreo McFlurry’s and life chats to learning to tango with a rando guy from New Zealand to getting kicked out of the Recoleta Cultural Center (which should really have some more signs) to meeting an Argentine diplomat on a bench at a ritzy downtown mall who asked what we thought of Donald Trump running for president – yeah, lots of adventures. But as terrific as the last few days have been, today God completely blew me away, so let me tell you.
Those are the adventures – the good stories – the moments that stand out from this week. If you flip things over, behind those stories are also some tangled knots and messy moments. I’m not unfamiliar with stress and anxiety, but being in a new country with all new surroundings drove anxiety to a whole new level in my life this week, and it came to a head last night. After spending the week getting to know new people and being in large groups for a lot of the time, my introverted side was really pumped for a chill Sunday, meeting with a little group of Christian friends to talk about life, and maybe hopefully even finding a church to visit together. But then a group of students from our program decided to take a day trip to Uruguay. How cool is it that you can just do that?! SO cool. Didn’t stop my brain from spazzing out about thirty different ways. Should I go? Should I rest? Was I missing a good opportunity to do something new? What if I didn’t go and then I wanted to go later and couldn’t find anyone to go with who hadn’t already gone? I’d really wanted Sundays to be my Sabbath days here. (hit up my friend Rachael for more on Sabbath). So I wouldn’t go. But what would I be doing instead? Would I still be able to find a church? Would I go to church alone?
On top of those thought processes, I’ve been painfully aware this weekend that my dad is in Belize without me for the first time, and I am really missing being with him and the people we love there. I’m really missing the village school and my sweet girls and the Belizean sunshine. I’m even missing tutoring math, that’s how you know it’s real. I’m also missing my brother acting in his first school play, and in an interesting turn of events two of my best friends are at my house right now and I’m not there with them. I just felt a little lost last night. I love it here, I love being in the city, but because I’m here, there’s a lot of wonderful places I’m not, and people I’m not with. Some days that’s harder to be okay with than others.
God doesn’t give us other people and expect us to do life alone, though. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of incredible friends stand in the stress with me, both here and at home. As always, my roommate 100% had my back last night, and my sweet friend Stephanie made time for a Skype call this morning to encourage me. And best of all, my friend Missy decided not to go on the trip today either, so we met for a late lunch this afternoon, and I got to hear her story and know her so much better than before! We’re from the same university, but haven’t gotten to spend that much time together at school, so it was really awesome to get share with each other about where we’ve been and what God’s done in our lives up to this point, and how we’re feeling about being here. Plus, after lunch, we caught the bus together and headed across town to Hillsong Buenos Aires. Here’s where the story gets really good.
Okay first of all, yes, there is a HILLSONG BRANCH in Buenos Aires. If you have ever participated in worship at any college ministry, youth group, or contemporary service across the country, you have sang a song by Hillsong. I guarantee it. They’re based in Australia, but they write fantastic worship music and have branches all over the world. And one is right here in Buenos Aires!
We walked in and heard “Bienvenido a casa!” more times than I could count. They have an incredible team of volunteers who greeted us with hugs and besos, and found us seats closer to the front. The worship started, and I have to tell you, while I’m usually not a such a huge fan of worship being presented like a concert, with smoke and lights and the bass turned up so you can feel in your bones, I LOVED the way Hillsong did worship. The band was having fun, the congregation was having fun, everyone was dancing and throwing their arms up in praise. It was absolutely the most energy I’ve ever felt in any church ever, and it was so laser focused on the words and the music and the message, it was obvious that no one was there for a good time, they were there to give glory to God. The first two songs were new to me, and I had fun dancing and singing with the rest of the congregation. But when the third song started, and I recognized the first notes of “Man of Sorrows,” a song we sing a lot at Midtown, the tears started pouring down. It just blew my mind that I could travel to an entirely different continent and God would put one of my favorite songs in my life, in my new language.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
The worship was incredible, but that was nothing compared to the message the pastor delivered (entirely in Spanish, and I understood!). The title of his sermon was “Creyentes que creen” – “Believers who believe.” He talked about how there’s nothing wrong with having doubts in our lives – but when we allow those doubts to define the parameters of what we believe God can and cannot do, we are no longer believers who believe, and we are limiting the work God can do in our life. We allow our circumstances to govern our faith instead of the Word – and then we miss where He is moving because we are so busy watching where we think He will move.
Did you catch that? We miss where He moving because we are letting our circumstances define where we think He should move. When I let anxiety take over, I’m choosing to let my circumstances tell me where He should move rather than paying attention to the places He is moving. When I worry about what will happen next, I’m not trusting that He already has a plan laid out for me. When I think about how frazzled and panicked I was last night, it amazes me how beautifully and gently God reminded me, through getting to spend the afternoon with Missy and hearing this message and the truth in these verses, that His plan is always more than I can ask or imagine. When I live in this truth – when I choose to be a believer who believes – there’s nothing to be anxious about any longer.
I’m pretty confident I’m never going to be able to pull that one off perfectly. But that means all the more that every morning I’m alive on this earth, my knees should hit the floor the second I roll out of bed to surrender whatever circumstances lie ahead of me that day to the One who has them all under control. Because I’m with Pastor Chris – venga lo que venga, quiero ser una creyente que cree. Come what may, I want to be a believer who believes.
Guess what, the story doesn’t end there! We couldn’t figure out which way to take the bus back home, so we asked some girls about our age to be sure we were at the right stop going the right direction. One of them was taking it to the same street we were, so she got on with us and we talked for awhile in Spanish about what we were studying in Buenos Aires, and what she’s studying in school, and what her home in Colombia is like. Pretty soon though, the bus started to go over some cobblestones and take some sharp turns, and we were getting a little dizzy, so we hopped off at the next stop with a quick goodbye. As we tried to figure out what direction to go next to find a subway station (holler at Google Maps for being stellar) and began walking, we were completely floored to find our friend from the bus walking towards us!! She had been worried when we got off so quickly that we wouldn’t know how to get home, so we all three walked together to the nearby subte station. Her name is Clara and she’s studying to be an elementary school teacher. She was so sweet to come with us and it was just more of God’s provision visible in so many ways – plus it was a fun chance to get to know someone local who lives in Buenos Aires and to practice our conversational Spanish!
The story doesn’t actually even end there, the story ends with me attempting to retell what had just happened to my host mom in my awkward Spanish punctuated with questions (“I knew a lot of the songs – wait. Conocer o saber?”) over some stellar Chinese food for dinner. Classes start tomorrow, which means today couldn’t have come with better timing. I joked in my last post about putting the new in new romantic, but the truth is, it’s hard for me to love new circumstances right away. Thank God for His grace in them all – new stress or old fears, I’m constantly being remade to be a believer who believes and I could not be more excited for whatever comes next.