Truthfully, my list of “countries to see” was never very extensive and didn’t see myself as a world traveler. Actually, for a long time, the only place I had any desire to travel to was Germany, and the idea of going anywhere else wasn’t one I entertained often. Not long ago I would have said it just wasn’t a real desire of mine to travel, but I think I’ve concluded that this was just my very practical, realistic, Type A personality, naturally shutting down any sign of a dreamy, spontaneous Type B personality… Because only crazy, adventurous, spontaneous people travel, right?
When I found out that for my DTS we would be traveling to South America, more specifically, Brazil and Paraguay for 2+ months, I had mixed emotions. Everyone I told, expressed that “I was SO lucky!” and kept saying things like “You must be so excited!?” And I thought to myself, “Yeah. I guess it will be a cool experience.” but I had no idea what to expect and didn’t really understand why, of all places, God would send me here. If anything, I had a heart for Europe, but South America? I had never even considered South America.
During the Lecture Phase of my DTS I prayed a lot for God to give me a real heart for the places and people we would go to, I did my book report on a Missionary couple who felt called to missions in Brazil and I also prayed that He would give me some understanding or reasoning. Although I didn’t necessarily get the clear, black and white answers I love so much, the Lord began to work on my heart, anticipation started to build and an eagerness and excitement grew.
My entire DTS, I was really “hit over the head” with the reality that God knows me so much more than I know myself – That He knows my deepest desires, ones that I haven’t even identified with or become aware of. I think Brazil was one of those desires for me; one He was aware of, but I wasn’t.
We got to go out into the slums, loving on the children and praying for those in need. We got to encourage and lay hands on the sick, and hurting. We got to share about God’s grace and forgiveness in a boys prison and men’s rehabilitation center. We got to preach in churches and share what God has taught us and brought us through. We got to meet many amazing people and were able to build relationship with the youth and young adults of multiple churches. And, I totally fell in love with the country! There are few times in life where we really get to see ourselves grow, but in Brazil I did. I got to see God challenge me, teach me and use me in so many ways. I felt the Lord cover me in His love and grace and fill me with boldness and so much joy. And time after time, we saw Him open doors, clear paths, and move in power.
There were so many precious moments, but I really want to take the time to share one story that stood out to me.
It was one of the days in our first two weeks of outreach. We were in Belo Horizonte, the first city we stayed, and we were partnering with a local YWAM team (You can read more about them here). That day we were heading to one of the bigger, more well known slums in the area and thanks to the base there, and the relationships they had spent time building, we were able to enter and be there with no questions asked – what a blessing! We were going to there expecting to do kids ministry (something this team went to do regularly) but when we arrived, to our surprise, there was a way smaller number of children gathering than, normal. They told us that they were normally flooded with children who were eager and ready for whatever they had prepared – But this time it was different. We got together as a team and were told it would be most efficient to split up and send out a few teams to minister door-to-door and in the homes. I volunteered, and Gules, Diane and I got put in a team with a man from their group that is well known in the slum, and Luiz, one of our translators. We began to walk through the tight pathways and we prayed for a woman sitting in her doorway, and then another woman who let us into her home. As we continued on our way a young boy found us and led us to another home. There were a couple men standing outside, the boy knocked on the door and after a few minutes someone answered. He explained that we were missionaries there to pray and eventually they opened the door and let us in. At this point I still had no idea where this boy had brought us; I just assumed it was his home but I don’t even remember him staying. When we got inside, the room was dark and foggy and it smelt worse than anything I had ever smelt. There were two brothers, one maybe 16 or 17, the other a year or 2 younger, and the girlfriend of the older boy. We prayed for them each individually and gave them words of knowledge as we were led. The presence of God became so tangible and the oldest boy got on his knees in prayer. Somewhere in the middle of praying, two other boys arrived, and we were told they were just friends coming by after school. We asked if we could pray for them also, they agreed and then they left. It seemed a bit strange that they had just come and gone so quick but we finished praying with the 3, said our goodbyes and left. Time had passed quickly and at this point we went back to meet up with the rest of the group. Shortly after we arrived back, the man who was with us praying and the woman who lead the team there, pulled Gules, Diane and I aside. We didn’t know what was going on but she then asked us if we knew what had just happened out there when we were praying. I imagine we looked pretty confused in that moment and she began to explain. She explained that the home we were just praying in, belonged to the most well known drug trafficker in the Favela. The parents of the boys we prayed for were currently in prison and the boys were “in charge” while they were away, as long as that might be. The reason it took so long for them to come to the door and the reason it was so foggy and smelt so awful inside was because they were hiding the drugs and trying to cover up the smell. The two boys that came in-between, were two boys coming to buy, who instead got prayer and then left. They both explained to us that the situation we were just in was more than dangerous, that there was high potential for something to have gone wrong, but that, that encounter was nothing less than a miracle set up by God and we could be thanking and praising God that we were completely protected and nothing happened.
It’s moments like this, that I’m left awe struck and humbled, and I begin to tangibly understand God’s character. I mean, in those moments, I can’t help but to recognize how small, and ill-equipped I am, and at the same time, how big and glorious God is… and still, He uses me.
This is just one, of my favourite stories from outreach, and that was literally just the beginning. God did SO much in Brazil and I have so many stories I am so blessed to be able spend the rest of my life sharing!