Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Mission Trip - I'm home!
I've been home for one week from my mission trip to Montes Claros, Brazil. This was my first mission trip overseas. It won't be my last! This was the most amazing experience of my life!! I have put off writing about this in my blog because I can't adequately express with words how powerful this trip was. I can give you a blow-by-blow of what we did each day but there's no way I can tell you how THAT affected the lives of the people we met or MY life. You would just have to experience THAT yourself! I challenge you to do that if you've never gone before....
We had 16 members from our church go on this trip together...some of us left not knowing each other very well...but we ALL came back as brothers/sisters/prayer partners and the best of friends - because we had been through this amazing experience TOGETHER! To get to Brazil we had to take 3 plane rides and a 10 hour (extremely bumpy) bus ride. We were slightly exhausted by the time we got there. We arrived around 11:30-midnight Saturday night. When I got up to start getting ready the next morning for church I had a feeling my pastor, who was on the trip with me, was going to ask me to do my testimony in church that morning. Guess that was God's way of preparing me because there WERE 16 of us there so I don't know why I should think he was going to ask ME of all people but lo and behold right before we walked out to board the bus he pulls me aside and asked me! When I told him "I KNEW IT!" he said "well good, then the Holy Spirit's been working on ya!!" LOL
Now I've given my testimony before in small group settings but this was completely different! For one I had to use an interpretor - the pretty young lady in the pictures above - her name is Lo. She is a wonderful Brazilian who stayed with us the entire time and worked as our translator...we became great friends! Okay, so because I had to use an interpretor then I had to shorten my testimony to 3-5 minutes!! WHAT?! That is soooo hard to do! Also, when speaking through an interpretor you have to speak in complete phrases (but not too long) so they can have the whole gist of what you are saying to be able to interpret it. Anyway, it was a learning experience to say the least. I did it...I got through it...I'd do it again if asked! LOL
Monday I went out on evangelism team with a great guy from my church - Chuck and an awesome Pastor Lopes & his wife Elian from Monte Carmelo church there in Brazil. We had a fantastic day! Lo went with us for the day as our translator. We had scheduled appointments all morning in homes of churchmembers who had requested us to come meet with their loved ones who were not saved. Everybody we met with that day was saved! Praise God! We spent lots of time in all the homes talking to everyone, listening to them, answering questions....sharing coffee, cookies....and ultimately leading them to the Lord. It was a glorious day!
Tuesday I worked with kids all day! I thought I was going to do VBS (Vacation Bible School) at the church all day but when we got there they requested us to go into one of the local schools and go into 17 classrooms instead! We were able to hand out witness bracelets and share the gospel in only about 5 classrooms before we ran out of time. There are so many kids in Montes Claros that the older kids go to school in the morning until noon time and then the younger kids go to school from noon until 5. In some areas there is even a third shift that goes until 10:00 pm at night!!! Anyway after we left the school we went back to the church and had lunch....the whole city practically shuts down for 2 hours at lunch time to eat and rest....and then we did VBS the rest of the afternoon at the church. That was a blast! I had so much fun getting to know the neighborhood kids and building a relationship with the little girls. The picture above of all the little girls around me is from Wednesday night...they came back to church that night for Worship and I am trying to get on the bus to leave church and they keep wanting to give me things and get me to sign their little notebooks and stuff. They were precious!!
Wednesday and Thursday I worked the eyeglass clinic where we gave away free reading glasses to as many people as we could see. It was so rewarding to see these 50, 60, 70-yr-old people start crying because they could now see to read for the first time in years!!! I only worked 1/2 day on Wednesday at the eyeglass clinic because I was blessed to be able to participate in another project (that will have to be a separate post/blog!) Thursday's eyeglass clinic took place at Monte Carmelo (Pastor Lopes' church) and they had such a great team of people in their church helping everything run smoothly that we were able to give away over 200 pairs of reading glasses that day! We worked so hard to get everyone fitted with the right strength they needed and pick the frame they wanted! It was wonderful to work together like this even without the benefit of being able to communicate in English all day....you have to get real creative trying to get your message across! LOL
Friday had to be the day that capped it all. We had worked with 3 churches all week in Montes Claros doing VBS, eyeglass clinic and evangelism to reach out to the communities. Well on Friday we went out into 3 (or 4 - can't remember now) small towns about 1 1/2 hours away from Montes Claros where there is NO evangelical church at all and we started prayer walking. The amazing thing is that the pastors and members of the 3 churches we had worked with all week came together and went with us...we had to rent another charter bus FOR THEM!! We had two charter buses full! Before lunch we just did prayer walking through the towns, no evangelism - because there is no set-up for discipleship yet. After lunch we worked in the town where we are planting a church and we did prayer walking and evangelism. Later that afternoon/evening we held a block party for the townpeople and we showed "The Jesus Film." Through our efforts over 200 people came to know Christ that day in that town!! The man that is moving there to begin the church, Marcos, was overwhelmed with his new mission....the pastors of the other churches assured him they were going to send him teams every month to help him until his church got going good. This was so awesome to see these churches working together!!!!
Saturday morning we woke up early to leave our hotel for our 10 hour bus trip back to Bello Horizonte, Brazil. We were met by churchmembers and all the pastors outside wishing us farewell. It was a bittersweet send-off. The bus ride was so much fun. I laughed and laughed and laughed....we sat in the back of the bus with our interpretors and enjoyed the last day or two we would have with them. We knew our time was coming to an end with them too. I wasn't ready for this trip to end. The days had been long and hard but the work was fulfilling and purposeful. We spent Saturday night and Sunday in Bello before we began our long journey home. I arrived home on Tuesday afternoon.
For a couple of days after arriving home I just sat here at home feeling sad...spending a lot of time in prayer and reading my Bible...trying to figure out what it is I need to do here in the States. Before I went to Brazil I was happy with my life here...thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I reach out to people, witness to people, build relationships, encourage people...but after going on this trip and doing so much more I feel like I should be doing SO MUCH MORE here! But I'm not sure what? or how? Now I'm just praying for God to lead me to whatever He has in store for me next....