This week I got to visit a friend’s church and go to my first Festa Junina in Brasil. It was a lot of fun! It is also known as festa de São João. They celebrate rural life and feature typical clothing, food, dance (particularly quadrilha, which is similar to square dancing). Men dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and women wear pigtails, freckles, painted gap teeth and red-checkered dresses, all in a loving tribute to the origins of Brazilian country music. This one wasn’t really the typical Festa Junina and lacked some of the traditional stuff, but it was fun none the less! Plus I got to see a bunch of brasilian young adults go crazy over BINGO. Hahaha. The church service was great too and reminded me a lot of the Brasilian church I went to in Florida where I learned Portuguese. It was nice to enjoy some fellowship with a lively group of Christian young adults.
This week was also our teens camp for the kids from Casa Semear. I couldn’t help but notice how the city has favelas and rich areas scattered about in close proximity to each other. Often times some of the richest high-rise apartment buildings overlook some of the poorest slums. Quite a stark contrast and makes one ask how so many can pass over such obvious inequality right in front their face, sitting comfy in luxury with indifference.
“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33-34 ESV)
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17 ESV)
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16 ESV)
The ride to the campsite was a little over 2 hours. We arrived at a beautiful camp grounds in the forest where we’d be spending the week with the teens. As with the last camp group, they wasted no time in running free in their newfound open spaces. Probably felt like a huge deep breath of fresh air in contrast to the usual concrete jungle in the favelas of a city of over 11 million people!
The surroundings of the campsite were gorgeous as well, with a river encircling the grounds and 2 waterfalls and a natural beach area along the banks of the river. There were also some nice hiking trails all around. Always a welcomed pleasure to be in the midst of God’s natural creations. The nights were clear and starry, the days were sunny and green.
These trails made a perfect playing field for the games with the teens. We had tons of fun inventing various races and obstacles to run them through in team competitions—which for some reason often included zombies or cannibals. Haha. All in good fun!
I think at some point we were maybe having a bit too much fun scaring the living daylights out of these kids—much to their glee as well though! But I definitely caught myself thinking, “man, this would never fly in North America—I can’t even imagine the lawsuits!” We had several games at night with various zombies or cannibals which would be the bad guys in the game. One such game, the goal was for the team to get to a point in the forest and find their corresponding team colour to have their candles lit in the pitch black night. The cannibals would then try to blow out their candles before they could reach back to the base to gain points for their team. Another game, taken from a marathon I ran in Toronto called “Run for your life”, we set up a corridor with obstacles lit only by very scarce laterns with zombies (see make up below) hiding in the dark. The kids had 3 balloons tied to their waists which represented their life. We had torchlights and hid in the pitch black, while the kids had to run practically blind with only the dim flickering kerosine torches illuminating the dark forestry. If they lost all 3 balloons, they were dead and became zombies in the next wave. It made for some awesome memories and helped tire out energetic teens as well as ourselves! (Though sometimes I think we were more successful at wearing ourselves out than them.)
During the day we had devotionals based on the book of Jonah, various chores for the kids and other games and activities. All the kids did the chores without much need for convincing, which again, is amazing! Everyone pulled their own weight. After a while I was starting to wonder if this was real life—what the heck are they doing with these kids here? And can we get these missionaries to write a book or at least come train us in Trinidad and Canada how to do the same!? I think the background the kids come from has a lot to do with it also. It’s easier to appreciate small things when little is all you have. “Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.” (Psalm 37:16 ESV)
The devotional times were good as we worked with them through the book of Jonah and what it taught us about God’s grace, the call of the gospel on our lives to extend mercy to others and recognize our own place as undeserving sinners. I stumbled through speaking on prayer on the second day. I’m still quite green in preaching or sharing in Portuguese, but the kids were so gracious to me! Often helping me finish sentences or thoughts I had problems communicating—which also showed me how much of the Bible or at least the ideas they already knew. Definitely a testimony to the work the missionaries have been doing discipling them! I was very happy to see the strong focus on being directly in God’s word though. The Lord shall surely bless the ministry of His word among them.
It is pretty cool to see how willing the kids were to participate, even with our crazy game ideas. (May their mothers be gracious to their muddy clothes! I hope they have strong detergent here…)They did most things without complaining or murmuring, and their obedience again stood out to me as admirable. With the exception of a few minor incidents (which has to be expected with teens) it was one of the easiest groups of teens I’ve ever worked with at a camp. I know from experience with this age group in Trinidad that these are not usually easy. I cannot help but attribute this to the faithful work of the Gospel which these missionaries have been doing here among the kids. The Lord is gracious and faithful!
Every night we built a camp fire—with the intention of it being a competition between the teams, but it actually ended up as a competition between the “Tios” (uncles—what the kids called us and the missionaries in charge). I think our resident Honduran volunteer—Hector—built a Mayan pyramid for his fire… haha. I really wonder who had more fun, the campers or the counsellors, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.
The camp fires were a cool time of song and chatting. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1b ESV) The fires providing some welcomed heat to the crisp winter air here, which while not as cold as Canada, is enough to require a jacket. One of the nights, power went, but we all took it in stride—there wasn’t any complaint from the kids as far as I knew and they were happy to just go with the flow and make the best out of it. “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.” (Proverbs 15:16 ESV)
We also got to enjoy quite a bit of free time with the kids, playing with them in the river, pool, football, churrasco (BBQ), etc… It was nice getting to know each one and their own personality quirks a bit. Like Rogeiro—who we lovingly and jestingly nicknamed after a river fish, “Saicanga”, that’s small, has big teeth and a temper bigger than its stature. Haha. He and I got along grandly, and he was always up under me forever asking me if I wanted to “joga bola”—play football. So Brasilian. Lol.
The time overall was great—especially getting to know some of the teens. I think I’ll have “Tio Tadeu” echoing in my head for a while to come! I especially love that it was kept fairly small and intimate. It didn’t feel overwhelming to us to manage easily, and gave the opportunity to actually get to know each of the campers by name. It is interesting to see them at this age and recognize some of the character traits and potential in them. It is the vision of the mission to keep it that way and focus on quality over quantity—something I resonate with immensely! While they’re not all exactly where they should be in terms of the faith and their maturity—none of us really are in a real sense though—it is quite encouraging to see the fruit of the ministry of the mission here among these kids who would by many be considered to be one of the most difficult groups to work with!
Many of them come from broken homes, poor situations, struggles with drugs, sex, gang influences, and a host of other problems which would cause these precious ones to have to mature and withstand more than they might be apt to do. Some of them have been victims of abuse and others even have had children of their own yet are only kids themselves! Pray for them and the work of the mission here. It stands as a light in a dark place—in communities where there are so many heavy issues like macumba (a mix of witchcraft and catholicism), drugs, crime lords, etc. The Lord has been faithful to bless and protect this ministry. More and more I’m seeing the value and utter necessity of this work! “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38 ESV) I’d love to see more people give to this cause and pledge to become consistent supporters. I’d love to try to gather some supporters. Personally, I like to be able to see and know what I’m giving my money to, and having been here for only a little bit, I know this is a great cause to invest in. The needs are plenty and the resources are few, but the Lord supplies. Please pray.
It’s only the day after the camp and I already miss these kids. Looking forward to seeing them around Casa Semear next week! Regular schedule for Casa Semear resumes, and we’ll have kids in the house throughout the week with the exception of Wednesdays (which is the missionaries reunion time to catch up, fellowship, pray for each other, etc). Thanks for your loving support and prayers, may the Lord bless you all as you work out your salvation with fear and trembling—knowing that it is God who works in you, both to will and do His good pleasure to the honour and glory of His great name, so that now and in the ages to come He should be shown as immeasurably gracious and glorious among hosts of angels and redeemed sinners.
You can see more pics from the camp at Casa Semear’s blog here: http://casasemear.blogspot.com.br/2015/07/2015-camp-for-semear-teenagers.html
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)