Back in 2009, an editor friend asked me to write an article for a Brasilian magazine, sharing my impressions of Brasil, the Brasilian people, and how the Lord worked in my life while in this country. Since those early second culture days were foundational for the last several years of my journey, and since I am now immersed in a third culture, it seemed like a good time to post this article, the English version, of course. I never even read the translation, come to think of it.
Do you believe in love at first sight? I never did, but Brasil changed my perspective. Since I was six or seven years old, I wanted to serve God as a missionary in another country someday, but I had no idea where. Little did I know that my first cross-cultural experience would be in Brasil, a land I would fall in love with immediately. Let me share with you a little bit about how your wonderful culture and people have captured my heart.
In May 2008, a group from my Bible school went to Brasil for 10 days to work with the ministry PEPE. During that short visit, I was deeply attracted by your country, culture, language, and food. Our whole group noticed your warm hospitality, your love for us as fellow believers, your joy and positive attitude. I didn’t want to leave, and was excited when God opened doors for me to return. He allowed me to spend 5 wonderful months in Brasil learning Portuguese, getting to know the culture, experiencing missions, and growing in my relationship with Him.
Near the beginning of my time in Brasil, I spent several weeks with Pastor Dalvino and his family, in Itapecerica da Serra. They took me in as a daughter and sister, making me part of their lives, in everything from daily family activities to Christmas celebrations. Although my Portuguese was limited, they were patient teachers. In a culture where I was a baby, knowing and understanding nothing, they helped me learn to walk.
Scripture teaches us that the church is the Body of Christ. In the Itapecerica church especially, as well as many other Brasilian churches I visited, this truth was lived out practically. When a visitor comes to church, you immediately accept them as part of yourselves. When a church member struggles, other believers take the time to visit, pray, and share from God’s Word. Likewise, you share in each other’s joys by celebrating together. All of this proves that you are disciples of Christ, as His love flows from you to those around you.
In February, I visited the Garcia family. Pastor Marcio Garcia is the founder and executive director of Missao Evangelica de Assistencia aos Pescadores (MEAP). This is a mission whose goal is to communicate the Gospel to the fishermen of Brasil, planting churches in the many unreached coastal villages. Marcio and his family challenged me through their passion for Christ. This family has been on the mission field themselves, and continually look for ways to minister and to involve others in missions. They have a genuine passion for Christ as well as for reaching their own people with His light.
In Marcio’s daughters and the other youth in their church, I saw great enthusiasm for Christ. These young people do not merely act spiritual on Sundays; they take initiative to serve in the church in areas such as children’s ministry, worship, drama, national missions work, and outreach to unsaved young people. Such enthusiasm is not restricted to this one group. Overall, I observed that the generation of youth in the Brasilian church shows great passion for Christ and for His work. In a generation where many young people from Christian families fall away from God or live casual Christian lives, it is exciting to know that in Brasil things are different as God uses young believers to lead, minister, and make a difference in His kingdom.
In Psalm 37.4 God promises, Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart. About three months after I arrived in Brasil, God gave me a desire that had been in my heart for over three years – to meet street children and people who minister to them. I visited ABBA (Associacao Brasileira Beneficente Aslan), a Brasilian ministry that works with street children and children at risk, seeking to restore each child to their own family or to a Christian home.
I had the awesome opportunity to help out at Casa Nova Esperanca, ABBA’s home for girls, for five weeks. There I met and worked alongside servants of God from several countries, most of them from Brasil. Despite a wide variety of backgrounds, these missionaries have formed a strong team for the purpose of glorifying God in His work. Ministry to these girls is never easy. The time I was there was an especially difficult season in the home. Despite prayer, faithfulness, and creative ideas to help the girls, there was little visible fruit. Yet the workers refused to give up, but stayed strong in the Lord and persevered, loving the girls with love that was clearly from God. Seeing their persevering faith in the midst of trials challenged my faith.
If space allowed, I could share dozens of stories about how God worked in my life and what He taught me in Brasil. But words alone, whether English or Portuguese, could never explain all that I have had the privilege of learning from my dear Brasilian friends, my sisters and brothers in Christ. You and your culture have taught me many valuable lessons about relationships with others, about passion for God, and about faith in the midst of hardships. God has changed me in many ways through your example and your love. It is amazing how He has made all nations and peoples unique, using them in different ways to show forth His character and glory.