>I posted this blog on the Lakeside Brazil July 2009 blog just after returning from Sao Paulo, Brazil. It says things that I still deeply believe. I thought it would be useful, helpful and informative to re-post it here.
One evening, after worship services a few years ago, I approached Jeff Kreiser, Lakeside’s Pastor of Outreach and Extension. He was in conversation with a small group of men, I believe they were a delegation from a Korean church. As I approached him Jeff swung around, opened his arm towards me and pulled me into the conversation.
“This is Karen,” he said as he introduced me, “one of Lakeside’s missionaries.”
I was taken aback. I had never thought of myself in those terms before. I knew I wanted to be a missionary, by that time I had been on two or three mission trips to Mexico, but had never really considered myself to be a missionary. My view of myself changed that evening. Just as it changed again during this recent trip to work with Restoration Ministries in Brazil.
If you read my Facebook profile it describes me as a full-time missionary. When I wrote that I believed I was qualified to call myself a full-time missionary, not only because of my commitment to going to Mexico and building homes for the homeless but also because of the things I do here, in my own backyard. They’re not big things, they may even slip under the radar unnoticed, but that’s okay by me. I’d rather be a tax collector than a Pharisee (Luke 18:10-13). However, what I do want to be is a lamp shining from a lampstand (Luke 8:16). After working with Restoration Ministries for 11 out of the past 14 days I believe I have added substantial fuel to my humble little lamp.
The majority of the ministry workers at RM are young adults, in their teens through their 30’s. Each and every day they immerse themselves in the lives of the peoples of Sao Paulo’s favelas. I have great admiration for them all. Walking alongside of them for a week showed me the depth of the faith, hope and love they all contain. It also showed me the depth of their commitment to Jesus. I know the only way I would have the strength to do what they do everyday is by leaning heavily on Jesus. It is very evident through their lives and ministry that that is exactly what they do.
Lakeside’s Brazil team walked alongside Tati, Wellington, and the rest of the RM teams for just over a week on this journey. We went on tours of the favelas, learning about the daily lives and living conditions of the poor in Sao Paulo. We met people, young and old, all sizes, shapes and colors. We met them in their homes, on their streets and at Camp California. We hugged them, we laughed with them, we prayed with them, we cried with them and we worshipped with them. Oh how we worshipped with them! I was fortunate enough to participate in three worship services in Sao Paulo and will never forget the faces of the people as they sang and prayed and listened, rapt, to the messages. In the midst of poverty, crime, drugs, alcohol and other diseases I saw people worshipping the Lord with unrestrained joy and passion. I saw people young and old lifting their arms and voices, singing their hearts out to the Lord. I saw people whose life circumstances would break me living their lives for the Lord.
Wednesday evening I worshipped in a home church with a woman whose daughter was killed when the drugs lords walked into her home at night and took her away. The daughter was murdered because she was dating a cop, one of Sao Paulo’s few honest cops. Years after his daughter’s murder this woman’s husband does not sleep nights. Instead, he spends them vigilant, watching over his surviving family members, including his orphaned granddaughter. At that same service was a woman whose husband works in another town. He works there because there he is able to make enough money there to support his wife, children and extended family (about 14 people in all, plus a baby on the way) but he does not make enough money to come home more than once every few weeks. Recently, he has not come home at all and and she worries that he has found another woman in the other town. Both these women and their families were at this home service. I watched their transformed faces as they worshipped the Lord. The depth of their worship left me feeling lacking in the depth of mine.
Those are just two of the many, many stories I heard these past few days. I had my heart broken over and over again for the poor of Sao Paulo. And because of who I am I did not want to leave Sao Paulo until I had fixed the problem. But in reality, there is no quick and easy solution for the poverty and other problems of Sao Paulo. Neither is the problem isolated to Sao Paulo. Poverty, crime, addictions and disease are prevalent throughout our world. As a Christian I am called to be a witness to the world. Jesus expects me to embrace different standards from the world’s standards. He expects me to love my neighbor and my enemies. He expects me to forgive those who have wronged me. He expects me to lift up the poor and downtrodden. He expects me to fight for social justice and and to live a life of sacrifice for Him. He also expects me to be a light, a shining example to those who have not yet fully embraced His expectations of them. He expects this from everyone who proclaims that they follow Him. For although we have been saved by grace through faith and not by works, we have been saved for works which God prepared beforehand, for each of us individually (Ephesians 2:8-10). What is your mission? It can be as simple as pulling out your checkbook to support worldwide missions, it can be as simple as raising our next generation of missionaries or it can be as complicated as taking the steps needed to go on a mission trip such as the one our Lakeside Team just returned from. We are called to obedience to Matthew 28:19. United together, in the body of Christ, we can do it! United together, with the strength of Christ, we will do it! Jesus has promised to be with us, “even to the end of the age.” He is calling us right now. I know how I am responding. How are you responding?
On a lighter note… after some not very extensive study, I have determined that toilets south of the equator DO flush in a counter-clockwise direction. You are now free to study north of the equator flushing…
posted by Karen, Brazil July 2009 team member