WHIRLWIND is the word which best describes my time leading up to, in, and returning from Brazil.
It was intense getting everything in order before leaving. While Amber was in BC taking part in graduation ceremonies, the kids and I were off to Ontario with a lot of divine assistance – God even provided an old friend as an unannounced traveling companion on the flight. With the kids deposited in Ontario, I made my way to Brazil with an unexpected night in JFK as a Chilean volcano slowed me down.
The return to Canada was no less eventful. I returned to Ontario to get the kids. A month apart was not without it’s challenges and even now when we leave a room together the kids seem antsy. The most heartbreaking question came as Daxon would ask, “are they ever coming back for me?”. After a few days in Ontario, we were off to BC. We landed on a Sunday and by 6:30am the next day I was back at work. It was a full-on week with a lot to do at work, Amber standing in a wedding, and my final exam for one of my Master’s courses.
Everything between those two events was no less chaotic, but so incredibly worth it.
Brazilians are gregarious people and their hospitality will leave you over-fed, up way past your bedtime, feeling humbled, and awash in love. They do a lot with a little. We were in the southern most state of Rio Grande do Sul which is similar to Alberta in that natural resources drive the economy and have made it a national cash cow. Where the comparison differs is that the land is owned by people in the larger cities and so the standard of living within the state is concerning. Rolling hills, dense forest, and dirt so red it stains your shoes make for gorgeous vistas everywhere you look. If by some chance you managed to experience hunger, it was quickly dispatched by the offerings of any number of fruit trees. Walking and snacking was a common practice.
The hyper-sexualized nature of Brazilian culture is no secret, but experiencing it first hand has my father’s heart ready to knock teeth out of boys. To be fair, the girls are not passive either. To see the larger impact of this thinking was hard to take in. Nowhere was this more visible than at the Home of the Good Shepherd in Boa Vista do Burica where we worked with Carla and Randy Reddman. The stories of the children here are unthinkable. Randy and Carla have created a place for boys and girls from all over the state to develop in ways that would have otherwise been impossible.
The role of Overseer is great because it is all the connecting and coaching without having to worry about all of the logistics. I had the honour of working with a fantastic group of students who, very kindly, made me a part of their team with little preexisting relationship. There were a lot of laughs, but more importantly a true connection. I believe that the Holy Spirit was able to have a few “ah ha” moments with students and I’m glad I got to be a small part of those conversations. Empowering the students to do more and see themselves as capable with God’s help is a great process to be included in. My ongoing prayer is that they never forget what they learned in Brazil.
Doing 4 – 5 Canada Classes and Healthy Lifestyle Presentations each day required a lot of energy. Add to this services and Media Presentations, and you have a full day, everyday. Not a single school forbid us to share our stories of faith and God’s faithfulness. Multiply this by four teams and literally thousands of students in southern Brazil were confronted with the reality of who God is: that he loves them, that he is real, and that he has something better for them. We saw people come to faith and that in itself makes the entire trip worthwhile. I could tell you stories for days, but what it boils down to is this:
as we are obedient, God is faithful.
On an individual level, Brazil was so good for me. Working with Randy and Carla, whom we cannot say enough about, was life-giving. It was encouraging on a deep level to see a married couple who had been living and working together overseas for so long who still not only love each other, but also like one another, have fun together, and are effective in what they do together. They’re also still normal – which has always been a concern of ours as you meet some interesting folks who have been in-between cultures for too long. It was also fascinating (and admittedly, often entertaining) to watch the students get into a flap over cross-cultural experiences that barely ruffled my feathers. It was a strong reminder that I am wired differently than others. Not better, but better able to handle certain situations. It speaks to me of future things and the Holy Spirit had a lot to say about my future.
All of this to say THANK YOU to all those who gave, prayed, and encouraged. This trip would not have been possible without you. As I look ahead, I do believe this time in Brazil was essential – even more than I realized before going. Thanks for believing in me, in us, and for investing in the students.