Monday, August 2, 2010

Oba Jesus Mi Ama!

We are back from Brazil! We arrived home on Saturday and I have basically rested, started processing, and missed Brazil since then. I know I want to blog about the experience, but honestly am so overwhelmed by the number of things I learned and the amazingly awesome ways the Lord blessed the trip, that I think I’ll do so in pieces so as not to be all-over-the-place. This will also help me process and can follow Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 6:4-8 to remember what the Lord has done.

Today, I’ll start with a cursory overview of the trip interspersed with a few pictures. I’ll share more pictures, too, but know they also are all on my facebook page along with some videos.

Friday, July 23rd
The 25 of us headed to Atlanta and then Manaus. I didn’t feel so hot on the plane from Atlanta to Manaus, but thankfully it eventually subsided. Praise God all of our bags of family packs and supplies made it to Manaus unscathed, even with our delay in leaving Atlanta. We arrived on the boat at about 3am to quickly crash in our hammocks to get a few hours’ sleep.

Saturday, July 24th

On our trip, we partnered with a pastor in a village along the Amazon who is working to develop church plants in villages, with the goal of creating discipleship. More on that in another post, but apparently this is different than the previous student ministry trip. We arrived at his village in the morning of the first day, so we got to start ministry that afternoon! I was in charge of kids’ ministry (VBS) so we jumped right in that afternoon inviting kids to join us. Our VBS translator, Camila, was AMAZING; so incredibly gifted with the kiddos. I was most definitely hesitant my first day not having any experience and with having Mel and Braun (the leaders of the trip…David Marvin, aka DMarv, was there, but he also was a Brazil newbie) in an adjacent village (they split the team on the first day). More on this later, too. All-in-all, our kids did a fabulous job and we made it through day one.

That night, we were invited to join the church in a revival of sorts. God taught me so much during this evening; the first being to rip apart my view of right worship. This poor church (as in not a lot of money) worshipped in a very imperfect manner according to the world’s standards…out-of-tune and old guitars, less than perfect sound quality, and a bit of puppet ministry. As I sat confused listening to more and more songs being sung in a slightly cheesy manner, God convicted me that it is NOT about perfection, it’s about our hearts. That the Brazilian’s hearts were for him as they worshiped with everything in them. This lesson continued throughout the week, leading to the last day when I realized how much I love Brazilian praise and worship. And Braun gave the church his guitar; what a sweet, sweet gift.

Sunday, July 25th

In the morning we returned to the first village to play with the kids more, share with women and men. It was sweet to see the kids seeking out their new friends in our students and celebrate with them. In the afternoon, we traveled to a neighboring village. It was shocking and disappointing at first, as there were so few people there. Apparently they had a giant party the night before. But God was FAITHFUL! A few folks shared their testimonies, including Mel, who has a story seeping with God’s perfect love and grace. After she shared and we distributed family packs, a man asked Braun and the Brazilian pastor (whom we will now refer to simply as Pastor, which we did the whole trip :)) to come to his house and pray with him. He was touched greatly by Mel’s story of grace and, after Braun and Pastor told him he has not done anything too big for Jesus’ forgiveness, he accepted Christ!! It’s so like God to take us to a little village where we were expecting tons of folks to then use a story of grace to impact the heart of another. Praise Him. That night we returned to the first village for a final service.

Monday, July 26th

This day we traveled to what is more of a small city. It took a little longer to arrive, so the morning was spent with most kids wandering around the village with the translators and a few of us hanging out on the boat. More on what God did on the boat later. The afternoon we headed-in for VBS and had a great turn-out! The church in this village was established by Pastor, so there were some familiar and some new faces. That night we had another service with testimonies from our kids. A great day.

Tuesday, July 27th

We traveled to another city on this day that was much larger. Pastor had been trying to meet folks here, and told us we were going to help him accomplish in one day what would take his church months. We spent the morning walking around the housing area, inviting people to come to VBS and the service. This experience was SO eye-opening. Most people lived in small two-three room houses made of brick or slabs of wood, without windows, and with very little inside. Most either had wooden or dirt floors. The way you welcome people is by clapping, since doorbells do not exist. We told everyone about VBS and the service, letting them know we had items for them and Good News.

That afternoon we had over 100 kids come to VBS!!! Wow. All of those kids got to hear about God’s amazing grace and love for them. In the evening, we had a good number of attendees to the service, though not as many as we expected. Again, God is sovereign. One other thing I started to notice was the lack of male presence in the families’ lives. More on that later, but definitely broke my heart. Also this night was a precious little five year old boy who quickly became DMarv’s buddy. He followed him around, mimicking everything he did. The sad part was, he was alone and had to walk back to his house all by himself. The culture in the world of poverty is so different than here…

Wednesday, July 28th

Today, we went to a very small village. We were sad when we arrived to only find a few people there, as most of the village (I think it was 50 families?) were in the city for the morning trying to sell their goods. It was a village obviously stricken with poverty, and the few buildings looked as though they may fall over with a strong wind. That morning we prayed for people to come and be filled, while a group went on a boat to neighboring homes to invite them back in the afternoon. God was again most faithful, bringing folks to hear truth in the afternoon. Most of the kids did not know who Jesus was, and a woman accepted Christ! There was also a neat story relating this village to Pastor’s pre-walk-with-Christ life. More on that later (I feel like I’m saying that a lot :)). Today's picture is also one of my favorites from the trip.

That night we went on an alligator hunt! Our group was the only one to catch one, a baby who we named Ronald!
Thursday, July 29th
Our last day, and because we had a long way to travel and had to bring Pastor, his family, and the few folks from his team that joined us home, we only had ministry in the morning. We went to another small, very poor village. Again, most of the kids had never heard Jesus’ name and most of the men/women knew who he was, but knew nothing else about Jesus, God, and his story. It was a great day of celebration and love.
Friday, July 30th
We headed back to Manaus this day. We stopped at a little market-type-thing for some souvenir shopping, swam at a pool, and ate dinner at a Brazilian mall. Then we said our good-byes to our new friends and headed out. I did not feel well at all this evening, so wasn’t worth much at the airport.

Saturday, July 31st
We arrived back on US soil in the morning to quickly feel like America is weird. All of us were tempted to say “oi!” to passersby in the Atlanta airport instead of “hi!” And, while we were happy to be home, felt like a piece of our hearts were left in Brazil. I also felt weird sleeping in a bed instead of a hammock, and most definitely missed the sounds of the river lulling me to sleep and the sunrise being my alarm clock. Oh and, praise God, I left Brazil without a single, solitary bug bite! Granted, I fully expect my skin to fall off shortly from the amount of bug spray I applied (3-4 times a day!). :)

So that’s the trip in a nutshell. Like I said, this overview is wildly interspersed with many, many good lessons and learnings, which I will share as I process through them in the coming days/weeks. I still can barely believe I was blessed to go on this trip with these amazing kids. My heart misses them and all of the Brazilians. We serve a mighty, good, and great God who is faithful to his word. I refuse to return to my “old” ways prior to having my eyes opened to new truths and experiences. I will forever be changed by the ministry in Brazil.
You may get a little tired hearing about Brazil, but I hope instead you are encouraged by the work our God did in the lives of all of us there.
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Psalm 95:1-7