Hey everyone! So—I’ve never been one to really publish a journal or blog per se—but I figured it would be a good thing for this trip so I can have something to reflect on later and also to keep people updated on how things are going and how you can pray.
So I had a bit of an interesting journey here. My flight originally was booked via American Airlines because I had a bunch of air miles to use up. It was supposed to fly via Miami and would be more than 15 hours long. However, the first leg of the trip was delayed so I would miss my connection in Miami to Brasil. American rebooked me on Air Canada on a direct flight (which is more expensive) from Toronto to São Paulo—which was such a blessing! On top of that I got to meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen a long time who happened to be on the same flight with her family… the providence of God is funny sometimes. We both look pretty trashed after 10+ hours on a red eye flight though…
I arrived tired but safe in the airport after a sleepless night flying (I can’t fall asleep in planes because it’s too cramped) and again was able to meet up with another friend who had returned to Brasil after her studies in Toronto. She dropped me off to meet the missionary (thanks so much Raquel!) and the rest of the day was recovering and restful. I have a roommate here in Casa Semear—Hector—who is from Honduras. So I’ve also been speaking Spanish with him. He’s a chill guy and was once a street kid himself, so pretty awesome seeing him involved and passionate in ministering here. His mixure of Spanish and Portuguese—Portunol—is funny sometimes…
Day 2, we had a reunion with the missionaries from ABBA (the mission organization) to share updates on the various projects, get to know each other and pray for one another. There are missionaries here from all over the world; Scottland, Canada, Germany, Swiss, South Africa, USA, Honduras… and a Trini! It was amazing to hear the work that the Lord was doing through these servants in the favelas. How precious indeed are the feet of those who bring the Good News! The work here is hard and long term. There are many things in the way of affecting lasting change and the missionaries face an uphill battle. However, knowing that the battle is the Lord’s is the comfort to all those who labour in the fields.
My heart is heavy after talking to a few of the missionaries who have been here for years. I feel like at the end of this trip I may leave with a broken heart because I know after you spend enough time with people in seemingly hopeless situations, if your heart doesn’t harden, it will break. There is a certain frustration which those who have spent time on the mission field or in Gospel ministry know all too well. That of the insurmountable task before you, that so many times there is not much more you can do despite the overwhelming desire. You can at times hear this frustration in the voice of missionaries who have been in their field for a while, their voices quiver as they talk about kids, youth, people who have been lost. All we can do is cry out to the God who saves to do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves.
One missionary showed me a video on Facebook of one of the kids who used to come to Casa Semear (the house I’m staying at) but is now in drugs and gangs. He posted a video of himself with automatic rifles and some other youth who were also in this lifestyle of gang violence—boldfaced, no masks or anything! I’m only here a short time and already I can feel the frustration of investing in people and it seemingly to be in vain. Well does Qohelth in Ecclesiastes lament the vanity of everything under the sun! I can’t imagine how it is for the missionaries who have to live in face of this reality—it’s one thing to see someone fall away, but when they are turning away to a life of crime and a path which may likely lead to their death—it’s another kind of weight.
The stories of the girls is another thing altogether. Abuse, pregnancies, and babies in the trash are enough to bring tears to even the heartiest of resolves. Apparently there’s always news of another case daily of babies left for dead. One missionary was telling me that sometimes you pass in the street and see a baby in the trash, or hear of people finding a newborn in a lake or just discarded elsewhere. It’s really common here. How a society treats its children, the image of innocence we have, must be a reflection on the state of its moral decline. But Brasil has been on a path of decline in the opinions of many—not to be overly critical, I know there’s plenty to praise the Lord for in this country as well! But right now at the forefront for me are these things which have become more clearly in focus.
The corruption at the levels of government and law is unbelievable—to the point that the laws protect the criminals more than the citizen! Murderers go unpunished and even are protected by certain laws which to any sensible person seem plainly crazy. Another big problem faced in the favelas (a favela is a densely packed slum/ghetto area) in Gospel ministry is that people are uneducated and cannot seem to distinguish between what is Christian and what isn’t. For example, one of the missionaries gave a simple quiz for people to pick from a list of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, Evangelicals, Muslims, Buddhists, etc… which were Christian? Several got it wrong, and even checked Buddhist and Muslim as Christian. Because some cannot discern the difference, they will take what one says, and what another says, and mix it all together until it is just one huge mess! Imagine facing this when trying to present a Gospel message…
The problem here is not “if there is a God”—people already have the assumption there is a God—but rather, which God is the true One. So missionaries are constantly battling these other false religions. People will come and say, “oh Pastor X told me this…” and they will ask who, and it turns out to be a Mormon or JW or something. Then they have to try to explain the difference and why it is wrong. However, the bigger problem is that to enable them to discern what is true or not, they have to be taught how to read and understand the Bible for themselves. However, as many in the favelas are uneducated or disinterested in education due to their life situations, they either can’t or won’t read, or have no interest in it because the pressures of life are more pressing. The battle really isn’t against poverty or physical needs—although those are clearly great—but rather one against a mentality which has resigned itself to a debased existence below what they were created for. They are blind to the banquet offered at sea, contented to settle for mudpies in the street.
Anyways—I’m not writing this to seem discouraged or invoke sympathy, but rather to realize that this, as any other work of the Gospel, must be solely dependent on God. The situation here is in reality no different to anywhere else. People everywhere are in a situation of spiritual darkness and hopeless without the Gospel of Christ. These situations only make it more plainly obvious to our eyes what our true condition is apart from Christ.
Prayer… and lots of it. That’s what I would encourage and plead from those reading. The fields are white unto harvest, pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more labourers. Pray that the Lord would strengthen and enable those already working here. Pray that the hearts and minds of the people here would be opened up to the glory of the only Gospel that saves. Pray for the encouragement of those who are here long term, their continued support from sponsors and daily reliance on the grace of our Lord. Pray that through the Gospel, real change in this country would be affected—as hearts and minds are set free from the bondage of this world’s trappings, despair and hopelessness to the joy of life in light of our King.
In other news, I’ve already been told once that I remind someone of Juliano Son (a Brazilian worship leader)… haha. Also, I’ve already started forgetting words in English—had a brain fart the other day. I have a feeling these moments will become more frequent the more I’m speaking Portuguese. Maybe it’s a sign of old age—early onset dementia? Lol. So I apologize in advance if my future blog posts don’t make sense. The people here are awesome though, I relate so well with the Brasilian culture—I swear they are just Trinis who speak Portuguese sometimes.
This weekend we are doing a camp with a group of the kids who come to Casa Semear—so keep that in prayer. We’re preparing for that today, buying the supplies needed and also working on the various games and props needed. Also on Monday evening I’ll be venturing out on my own to meet up with another missionary to visit his group of young adults which meet in Heliopolis—the largest favela in Sao Paulo. So pray for safe journeys and also that the Lord would be pleased to use me there in whatever way He would like. Pray for me, for continued dependence on the Lord, humility, and for clarity of speech. While I’m fairly fluent in Portuguese, it isn’t my first language—so I’m a bit less confident in my ability to adequately express myself or the message of the Gospel. It’s good though, as dependence on one’s own eloquence can be a big hindrance to the work of the Spirit in Gospel ministry. Regardless, pray that the Lord would continue to teach me and help me to have the right words for the situation. It’s quite tiring on my brain all day switching between languages. I’m excited though to start helping out with the ministry here and see what the Lord has in store.
Thanks and love you all! God bless. I’ll try to keep future updates a bit shorter—but you who know me, know how prone I am to being loquacious. Haha.
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
(1 Timothy 1:12-17 ESV)
Click here to read the next Brasil Mission: Blog Journal 02