The weather was not cooperating, it was cold and rainy. Our bus got stuck in the mud Friday evening and we had to walk most of the 5K between the highway and the camp. The mud was thick and gooey. My footwear was not up to the walk so I did it in my bare feet. Diane did, too. We walked and talked with Tati (Taw-chee) on the way up the hill. Tati was one of the regular workers at Camp California. Diane was a frequent visitor. This was my first trip.
The bus bringing the children Saturday morning got stuck, too. A few of us took a car down the hill to walk up with them. We had two days with the children, to feed them, to teach them and, most importantly, to love on them. We swam with them, did arts and crafts with them and played with them. We took hundreds of pictures, smiled till our cheeks hurt and gave out hugs freely and indiscriminately. Now it was Sunday morning and we needed to head back down the hill with 75 kids in tow. The buses still couldn’t make it up the hill. We were going to have to walk them out. No problem.
As we were packing up our things at the camp we were told to pack a smaller case with only the necessities for the next day, maybe two. We were going to have to carry our small case with us and hope the rest of our belongings would be able to make their way to us soon. As usual, I over packed and my “small” case was quite heavy. As I slogged along in the mud my struggles with my case must have been quite apparent because it was not too long before I felt a small tug on my arm. There stood a young girl of about 11 or 12. She indicated to me that she wanted to help me carry my bag. I was positive my bag was too heavy for her. We debated about it back and forth, with gestures and signs because I spoke little Brazilian Portuguese and she spoke even less English. Finally we compromised. As we trudged down the trail together we traded the bag back and forth. Companionably, we held hands and tried to communicate with each other, laughter being the best language there is.
I think about Flavia quite often now that I am home from my mission trip to Brazil and Restoration Ministries. I wonder how she is doing, whether she has enough to eat, whether or not she is healthy and warm. I was able to visit Flavia’s home, I did not actually go inside but we stood in the street outside her home and visited briefly with her family. Flavia lives with her parents and four siblings in on of Sao Paulo’s favelas. Her life is not easy. Her life makes me realize how blessed I truly am.
Last week I received an email from our Pastor of Outreach and Extension at church. Translated that means Jeff is our Missions Pastor. Lakeside was hosting a Zone Latin America dessert and Tati was going to be speaking. The email was an invitation to have cheesecake as we learned about mission opportunities in Latin America. Of course I made plans to go, I wasn’t going to miss seeing Tati again for the world.
Frankly, I was a little disappointed in the turnout. Other than Pastor Jeff and myself there were two other people there. Mike and Jim are both heavily involved in missions at out church, I have served with both of them several times in Mexico, Jim went on the same trip to Brazil as I did, and both Mike and Jim have been to Brazil on trips I was unable to attend. I wasn’t disappointed with Mike and Jim, they were actually there to share about the Costa Rica trip they had just returned from. That is a story for another post. I was just hoping to see some new faces.
Tati is currently in the States on a fund-raising trip. She was commissioned by WorldVenture as an IPM (International Partner in Ministry) last December. She is here for five months looking for new contacts, individuals, small groups or churches, who would be willing to partner with her as a national missionary. Although she is attempting to raise support she is also sharing her testimony in the hopes that God will use it to touch people’s hearts and bless them. Jeff, Mike, Jim and I got to listen to Tati’s testimony last Monday evening. She has a beautiful story, full of hope and promise that she is willing to share with anyone. She is traveling around California and is even willing to travel to other states to share her testimony. If anyone is interested in hearing Tati’s testimony please leave a comment on this post and I can put you in touch with her.
So back to Flavia… Tati was using a book as a visual aide with her testimony. This gorgeous book has pictures of Tati and her family as well as pictures from Restoration Ministries. As she flipped through the book and commented on the pictures one picture in particular jumped out at me, a picture of Flavia. She is doing well and going each week to Restoration Ministries to do a Bible Study with Tati and a few other girls. (I am assuming someone else is filling in for Tati in her absence.) Flavia is 13 now and from her pictures is just as smiley and sweet-natured as she was when we spent our brief time together. Tati filled me in on a few brief details of Flavia’s life since my return home and gave me some ideas of what I can do for her.
That evening was such a blessing to me. It is my sincere hope that the evening will end up being a blessing to Flavia as well. You see, it is my belief that supporting Tati is supporting Restoration Ministries. Supporting Restoration Ministries is supporting the people they work with in the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Seeing Tati again reminded me of the strong faith and beautiful hope I saw reflected in the faces of those I visited with in Sao Paulo. I saw people live and carry on their daily lives in conditions we can barely imagine. I saw families living in homes we wouldn’t keep our pets in. I saw crime on the same streets where the children were playing. But most important to me is the faith and hope I saw shining in the faces of the people in Sao Paulo. I have said it before and I will say it again, I feel that being born and raised here in the United States, here in this land of plenty has put me at a distinct disadvantage. The people in the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as well as people in similar circumstances all over the world, have learned what it truly means to completely depend upon the Lord for his provision in EVERYTHING. I feel it is our responsibility as professed Christians to love on and support those who are doing God’s work in areas such as these. We are called to love. We are called to love sacrificially. What better way to show that love than to support those who are spreading His Word? What better way to show that love than to pray fervently for their work?
How will you reflect God’s love today?