So… it’s been a couple weeks since I arrived back in the states from Brazil and I’m still trying to process everything, but I figured I better start writing now so I don’t leave anything out for all you fine blog readers 😉
I want to start off by thanking God and all of you who supported me both financially and through your prayers. Without you, this trip would not have been possible. So…. THANK YOU!
I just spent the last week of June in Carpina, Brazil with a team of AMAZING brothers and sisters in Christ helping run an English Camp/VBS at a school for kids from nugget-size age all the way up to junior high-age. Going into this trip, I really didn’t know what to expect exactly and I didn’t quite know what to make of it all, BUT I knew that it was where God wanted me to go. He definitely made that clear by providing for all of my financial needs and providing me with the time off to go as well. If you are unaware of my current life status, in the beginning of May, I was laid-off from my job and have been diligently searching and interviewing for the past two months. I had already received approval from my boss to go to Brazil, but after being laid-off I knew that was God making it SUPER clear that this was where He wanted me to be at the end of June.
Back in March when we had our first team meeting I had signed up to help with music, sports, and teaching. Little did I know how much God was planning to stretch me through those things in Brazil. I was told that they had used pre-recorded songs in the past for the music and I had no problem with that, but I really felt that I should bring my guitar down and lead with live music this year. Yes, this required figuring out all the rules about flying on planes with guitars, but looking back now, I see that God’s plans were so much greater than my own. For the past 3 years, I had been leading music for the kids at my church in AWANA and I see now that God used those years as preparation for this trip. In the last weeks leading up to our departure, I felt the attack of the enemy trying to discourage me about bringing my guitar down to Brazil. “What if it gets damaged? Or stolen? etc.” All these thoughts bombarded my heart and mind as I scrambled to put together a list of the songs that we would teach the kids. As far as I knew, it was just going to be myself and another girl from our team, Anna, helping lead the music. Thankfully my Savior is always full of surprises. The first day of English Camp I found out that another guy on our team, the talented Dan Gallop from PA, was a drummer (and a REALLY good one too!). Not only that, but another girl from our team, Ashlyn, volunteered to help with motions for the songs as well.
And thus the English Camp 2017 band was born.
It was such a blessing to minister through music all week alongside these energetic and talented folks. And if that wasn’t encouraging (and surprising) enough, each morning I also had the pleasure of hearing the school’s own worship band open the camp with super-rad songs for the kids in Portuguese. It’s extremely humbling, but SO refreshing to know that God doesn’t need any one language or music style to bring Him praise, and seeing the kids praise Him in Portuguese AND English throughout the week was nothing short of inspiring. In addition, our team was able to visit some of the churches on Sunday, and being able to join in singing with our Brazilian brothers and sisters was a whole other blessing in and of itself. I’m pretty sure that’s what Heaven is gonna be like. Every tongue and nation will be joined together singing praises to our Lord, and that’s totally OK cause He understands it all. Those were some of the most joyful moments for me on this trip. Some of the songs I didn’t know or recognize, but others I definitely did recognize and was able to sing along in English (and poorly attempted Portuguese at times too).
And that was JUST the music.
Myself, along with two others from our team, were asked to teach lessons to the older kids about social media. Each session focused on a different aspect such as integrity, purity, and accountability. I was specifically asked to teach about maintaining purity on social media. Going into the trip, we were expecting a lot of teenagers to attend English camp, so our messages on social media would be totally relevant to what was going on in their lives, but after the first day, we saw that very few of those teenagers actually showed up, which meant all of us who were teaching needed to revamp our messages to be more age-appropriate, applicable, and relevant. I wasn’t too nervous about teaching as much as I was about communicating the most important points about what it means to be pure in general and then connecting that with social media. Thankfully, I serve an awesome God who gave me the words to say about purity in life and on social media. Surprisingly, a lot of the kids had smartphones, so it ended up making our messages more relevant than we anticipated. In addition to teaching, I also had the opportunity to give my testimony to the kids along with the rest of our team. We had to practice both our testimonies and our lessons with an interpreter before we left so we knew how to phrase our words to make the most sense after being translated. Again, it’s so amazing to see God working in multiple languages at the same time.
SPORTS. What a highlight of this trip. Being able to play futebol with the kids was such a privilege. Those Brazilian kids are REALLY GOOD! We also played lots of other games such as dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, and water-balloon volleyball to name a few. As an “Americano” who loves futebol, it was fun to see the kids react when they realized I loved the game as well. Two nights out of the week, we also got to go to one of the local churches and play pick-up basketball and futebol with guys and girls in the high-school to college-age crowd. Much more competitive and challenging, BUT SO MUCH FUN. We were all sweaty messes at the end of each night, but it was great to make connections with the people through these sports. We couldn’t always talk to each other, but we knew exactly how to “communicate” when we were playing. Some say music is the universal language, but I’m pretty sure that sports are up there as well.
As far as games go, Cannibal was by far the “cherry on top” for the week. In the photo above, you can see it was “a little messy”. Definitely not a game that most American parents would let their kids play. The goal of the game is to find each of the “injuns” who all have a different color paint (i.e. I was the blue injun). Once they find the injun, they are required to complete a task (of the injun’s own choice) and get that color painted on their arm. The hard part is that the kids don’t know what order the colors need to be in for them to win (so there’s a lot of trial and error). As an injun, I could have the kids do whatever I want in order for them to “earn their stripe”. Many of them ended up rolling around in mud, fetching me a chair, or sitting in a large puddle just to get a blue line painted on their arm. And to add to the difficulty of this game, there are “cannibals” who run around and catch the kids. When they get caught, the cannibal wipes all the paint off their arm and they have to start over. It was a lot of fun and a great game to cap off the week.
Tied in to all these lessons, games, and songs was the real reason our team came to Brazil, and that was to share Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was incredible to see kids (and adults) so eager to learn more about Jesus and His Word, and praising Him with all their heart. The Brazilian people have a genuine thirst for the Lord and desire to do His will. At the end of the week, 23 kids placed their faith in Christ and over 50 made decisions to dedicate their lives in service to Christ. PRAISE GOD! It didn’t hit me until the Sunday after we returned that our team was made up of 23 people and that was the exact number of kids that were saved. My Lord continues to surprise and bless, and it was a privilege to serve Him in Brazil.
P.S. Mad props to Dan Vanaman, our official team photographer, for the spectacular photos seen in this blog. Check out his other photos here: https://www.instagram.com/danielvanaman/