I don't know how to explain it other than this: I left my heart in Brazil last summer. It sounds melodramatic and exaggerated, I know, but the truth is that I have never loved like I loved there. I generally wouldn't describe myself as overly kind or sensitive or tenderhearted, but when I walked on the dirt roads of Village Campestre [which literally translates poor village], everything inside of me melted. The people that I met in that beautiful place will be with me for the rest of my life -- truly, I have a family in Brazil, and I ache to go back.
I find that whenever God sends me somewhere to teach me something, I get an intense desire to return. It happened when I went to SEMP after my sophomore year, New Orleans after my junior year, and West Virginia after senior year, but I have never had such a burning passion and need within me like I have for Brazil. What was it about that country that is so special? How can I even begin to explain it?
When Phil and Rachel Stucky, the missionaries with whom my team stayed, moved to Maceio to plant a church, they prayed for God to send them people, adults, committed married couples. They found a handful, but it became very clear that their link to the community was going to be the kids that came to the church in droves. We spent nights in the church building [for lack of a better term -- in reality, the building was little more than slab of concrete with a roof over it and a security gate around the perimeter] with over forty of these beautiful children, and as Phil and Rachel told us their stories, I did everything I could not to let my jaw drop.
These kids came from broken home, alcoholic homes, abusive homes, destitute homes. The culture requires nothing from a father but whatever financial support he can give, and that is often absent, to say nothing of a loving, present figure in a child's life. The education system is set up so that it is extremely difficult to get even a basic education -- anything higher than eighth grade would be considered advanced and the chances of getting accepted into a college or university are slim to none. Of course, entering the work force is nearly as difficult; jobs are scarce and the average monthly salary can be made in mere hours by most Americans.
As I learned about the individual stories and the social forecast as a whole, my heart broke for the hopeless kids. When I looked around, though, I didn't see the bleak future. I saw joy. I saw the love and companionship that they found in that church and with each in other, a new family in Christ. I saw Godly mentors as the adults developed relationships with the kids, taught them how to live effectively in their world. I saw the life changing effect that the love of God had on these people; materially, they had nothing, but they welcomed me into their church, their homes, their schools, and their lives with open arms and enormous smiles.
I did more than see when I was in Brazil -- I became a part of it. I stood among them during worship and I was more moved by their passionate, genuine singing than I have ever been by any expensive, effect-laden presentation. I played games with them, met their families, laughed with them, laid brick to help build classrooms with them, and cried with them when it was time to leave. I so completely gave that village church my heart that I am positive I will never get it back completely, but I don't want it back -- I just want to go home to my family that doesn't speak the same language.
That's just it -- we didn't need words. Don't get me wrong, a common language would have been the biggest blessing in the world, but when we were stripped of our most basic form of communication, we were able to move to a far better form: love. What we couldn't say because of the language barrier, we said through our actions, our faces, our prayers for one another. I still pray for the church and the people that I fell in love with there almost daily, and now God has given me another opportunity to show them how much they have changed my life.
As I said earlier, the church building is woefully lacking. While the people would never complain, they are trying to save $3000 to put a roof on their future sanctuary. God has provided for them to build classrooms and God will provide for them to finish this sanctuary, but $3000 American dollars is an incredibly daunting amount when most make far less than $50 a month. I want to help. I want to help because I love them, yes, but also because that is what God calls the church to do -- isn't true religion taking care of the widows and orphans in their need? I promise you, there are plenty of those in Village, as well as abandoned, abused, and alone. I spent time there, and for the people in the community, it is so much more than just a church. It is an after school program, a place to hang out and not deal with gangs or alcohol, a refuge, and [literally for one family] a home. The money sent to Brazil will do more good than it could ever do in my wardrobe or apartment, that much is for certain.
I don't mean to use this blog as a soapbox off of which to preach, but having just received some emails from a few different people from Village, I couldn't help but to share what was on my heart. Will you help too? I'll be talking to the team who went last summer and my family, and I want to raise some support to send them a gift as an encouragement. As Phil said in an email, "It would be an answer to their prayers." If you, whoever you may be, have stumbled upon this blog and took the time to read my usually silly antics, and you would be willing to contribute to this offering of sorts, please talk to me. If not, please pray. Please pray for the church as the leadership is going to be turning over. Pray that God will continue to mold His people and that they will not grow discouraged, but that they will continue to grow and serve and love.
For your prayers and perhaps gifts, thank you. From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of my beautiful friends and family in Village Campestre, obrigada.
How Great Is Our God became extremely meaningful for both the Kalamazoo team and the Brazilian youth group, so some of the kids asked to learn it in English. This is them singing on the last night.