Back in March we mentioned we might have the opportunity to speak to some judges here about American law. Well...a week ago we concluded a conference about the American common law system with approximately 100 judges, lawyers, and students at the judicial training center in São Luís. The 10 hour course included 8 different lectures by 4 American speakers, and was capped the following day to a crowd of about 250 with a keynote address titled “Pursuing the Rule of Law.” The feedback we have received from the participants, the guest speakers, and our fellow hosts has been strikingly similar to that of our own assessment; it was “much better than expected.”
We were asked by our language professor to give a conference to this same audience. We, as in, the 4 of us. We, as in, people with no background whatsoever in law. We, as in, our only qualification to speak on the American common law system is that we are Americans (which is really no qualification at all) and we are native English speakers (which is simply a byproduct of us being born to English-speaking parents). Those are not exactly things you would highlight on a resume, and yet, we felt like this was an opportunity we could not turn down.
Our prayer has been for God to give us opportunities to share with the people of São Luís why we are here. Our desire has been for God to grant us platforms to explain that He is the reason we moved to São Luís. This opportunity meant we would be able to be in front of people we normally would not have the chance to meet with and explain our mission.
The way this all came about is a great example of how “much better than expected” things become when “we” are replaced with “He.”
Though the mechanism(s) the Spirit uses to bring about his purposes are mysterious, the outcomes are often much more evident. In this case, the first evidence we saw of God’s hand was in Justice Jeff Boyd, a Texas Supreme Court Judge, former Chief of Staff of the Governor, former Texas Deputy Attorney General, and lawyer. He saw our previous blogpost about this opportunity and reached out to offer his help. That offer evolved into him putting together an incredible team to actually lead the conference! He recruited Geoff Connor - former Texas Secretary of State and an experienced lawyer in International affairs; Judge Mark Atkinson - a criminal court trial judge for 25+ years and CEO of the Texas Center for the Judiciary; and Professor Maureen Weston - Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Law at Pepperdine University. What a team, definitely "much better than expected!"
Another piece of the puzzle God was putting together was the formation of a relationship with Justice Paulo Velten, a judge on the State Supreme Court of Maranhão and director of the School for Judges. His vision for a more "just" Brasil is what started this endeavor. It was his reputation and accomplishments, along with the experience and expertise of Justice Boyd, Secretary Connor, Judge Atkinson, and Professor Weston which afforded us opportunities to be in front of people who hold positions of power here. We were given the chance to meet the other justices of the Supreme Court of Maranhão and to have a private meeting with the Vice-Governor as a result of who we were with. Getting to meet these individuals and share why we are here was "much better than expected."
We would not have had the opportunity to do all of this if not for the accolades of our guests. It was impossible and illogical to imagine we would host such an accomplished group of law experts in our new city, in front of powerful decision makers, in this particular avenue. It is interesting to look back and observe patterns. Yesterday's lenses are often much clearer than today's are, but they can be such gifts of affirmation. We have noticed that God keeps asking us to do things that seem much bigger than our abilities (understatement intended). It has repeatedly been the case that He wants our commitment before we know the full picture of what we are committing to. What continues to amaze us though is how He takes a simple "yes" and turns it into a "No way!" "No way" did we just witness that! "No way" did we just get to do this! "No way" did that just happen...except by the grace of God!
We are batting a thousand when it comes to God providing resources that are "much better than expected" when we are asked to commit to something in an effort to bring Him glory. We want to live the abundant life, we want to live audaciously for God! Our Father does not want our abilities, He has them in spades. He doesn't need our ideas, "[His] ways are higher than [our] ways"(Isaiah 55:9). He doesn't want us to come to Him with a plan, He just wants us to follow His. It is in our view, only because of "who we are here with" that we will be able to do anything in São Luís, and that gives us great confidence! We have found that when we get out of the way and trust in who He is, the results are "much better than expected!"