Monday, June 16, 2014

Thankful for the Entire Body of Christ

Fala mano (What’s up, man?),

I think that we have definitely reached a point in our trip here where we have found a level of comfortability with the neighborhood that we live in, a growing depth in the friendships that we have with students, and an understanding for the Brazilian culture (at least according to the citizens of Goiania). For these things, I am incredibly thankful. The nature of our trip was to investigate the campus and city of Goiania to see if it possessed a culture that is ripe for a ministry. It is hard to say with certainty as a human being whether or not it is God’s will for the Federal University of Goias to have a full time ministry, but He has called Christians to go to all nations. With that in mind, I definitely feel like this campus would be a fruitful place for God to use a ministry; I am excited to hear in the future how this thought aligns with God’s will. Despite the fact that it is highly unusual for students to actually live on campus, they have had a large willingness to meet us at different parks, malls, and our house. Also, they have from the very beginning of our trip invited many of us to their parties, houses, and meals. They have had a great curiosity about the American culture, but also have wanted us to know their favorite parts of Brazilian culture and even some of the things that they don’t like. This level of transparency has amazed me. When it has come to the discussion groups that we have held at our house, many of the students have been very open to share. For example, there is a large religious movement here called Spiritism. From what I have gathered, Spiritists believe in something similar to reincarnation. At the end of each life, you are judged for your “good” moments and your “bad” moments. Theoretically, you then are able to know what it is that you did wrong in that life and go back and fix it in your next life. Through this thought, you may eventually have the chance to live a life that is fully good. There are a few students that have come to things that are Spiritists. There have also been Atheists, students that believe in things similar to Karma or god being a form of energy, and students that believe in many different aspects of different religions all at once. I am grateful that each of these students has come to our discussion groups or has spent time with us and shared their views on life and has been open to discussing my personal view as well. There has even been one girl who stated that she was very open to changing her belief system from Spiritism because she is not convinced of its certainty. Her name is Ana Clara. Please pray for her by name! Pray that if she investigates Christ as a Lord and Savior that she may find great joy in this and be overwhelmed by His love.

As I stated in my last post, we were able to watch the first World Cup soccer game with many of the Brazilian students and people from the church that we have partnered with in Goiania. It was really an incredible experience for reasons that I would have expected and some that I could not have predicted. The game was between Brazil and Croatia. The buzz leading into the game could nearly be felt in the air that day. The university cancels classes any day that Brazil has a World Cup game because they know better than to have teachers show up for empty classrooms. A stark number of students were supporting the Croatian side, though, and this did come as a surprise to me. The corruption of the government coupled with the fact that the citizens feel that the World Cup has done more harm to their economy than it has done good has led to a lot of dissension from Brazilians. As always, there exist extremists on both side of the issue. The interesting group of people is those with a torn heart. The people who love the game of soccer and wish for Brazil to further its legacy as a country recognized for its excellence in a sport loved by the entire world. However, they feel like they must hold out on their excitement or support for Brazil because they do not wish to betray their fellow countrymen who are upset with the issue. All of this was expressed when the first goal of the World Cup was scored, and this was done by an own goal by a Brazilian defender. Some of the students cheered, while other students showed their obvious dismay. There was so much emotion in one room, and it was a unique moment to be a part of that I will never forget in my entire life. Brazil did come back to win the game, but it will be interesting to see how they play throughout the rest of the tournament. I look forward to contacting the students that I have become friends with to see their reaction when Brazil loses out or wins the entire World Cup. Here are a few pictures from the game to show you how we decorated the house and also how the students came to watch the game with us!

Here is me hanging out with Heron and Mario during halftime of the World Cup game.
We had an interesting time trying to hang this flag from the ceiling of our living room. These little flags were strewn about our entire house. We spent a decent bit of the afternoon taping them to strings to hang them up.
Here is one view of many of the students and people from our team that watched the game together.
  I am excited to eventually finish and upload our second update video because it will contain some footage showing the students reactions throughout the course of the game! Stay tuned for that!

This past weekend we went to El Ranchero in Corumbá, Goias. It was about a two hour drive and we took a large bus. It was absolutely refreshing to hang out with the students in a new environment. I would try to give you the nitty gritty details with words, but I can imagine how you feel at this point about my descriptive writing and words would not do the things that awaited us justice anyways.

Here is a view of the sky at the camp. It looked more like a painting than it did real life. There were rolling hills past the little houses that we stayed in with a ton of paths to walk and explore.

These are the "bungalows" that we stayed in while we were at the retreat. There were four rooms in each of the buildings, and they each had wraparound porches. The area that we ate our meals required you to walk through a forest with a ton of butterflies and monkeys.

These are some of the cascades that led up to a massive waterfall that we hiked to while we were at the retreat. We swam in the small pools at the foot of these. The water was freezing cold because it comes from a river that flows down from a tall mountain nearby. This freezing water was a reprieve for me from the "winter" weather of Goiania that normally consists of  80-88 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures

This is a view of the biggest waterfall in the area. We estimated that it was about a 150 foot tall waterfall, and this cliff overlooked the major drop. We were able to swim in some of the pools that were close to the edge.

As you can see, the view beyond the waterfall was also beautiful. It opened up into a massive valley. You could see dense forests of Eucalyptus trees in the distance. When standing by myself, I felt like this could have been the place where pride rock in the Lion King was dreamt up. Mostly because a shadow covered part of the land as we were getting ready to leave the falls.

Those pictures give you a good idea of the awesome scenery that we were able to take in over the weekend. This was also the first weekend that we talked about the person of Jesus Christ with the students. It made for a very interesting period because a few of the students walked out when they first saw His name on the projected slide, but they eventually came back because they were intrigued at hearing out our view of this very polarizing figure. Our discussion groups for the weekend revolved around what it would mean if Christ's claims were actually true and how this would shape our view of and relationship with God. I think that it was a very fruitful time for us with the students that we have been connecting with. Please be praying for the following guys by name that our team has connected with: Kledson, Klebor, Heron, Felipe, Humberto, Mario, Wilson, Nikolaus, Lucas, Enrique, Artur, Geisson, Rafael, Diego, Bruno, and Junior. These are the girls that our team has connected with: Ana Clara, Lidia, Lizz, and Amanda. Pray that the Lord can connect them to Brazilians that they can follow up with after we leave, whether that be at the church that we have been going to, Igrega Luz, or with other Christian Brazilians.

There are only two more weeks here in Brazil, so please be praying for my focus and energy as the trip goes on. Thank you so much to everyone that has made this trip possible for me and my entire team. I realize with every passing moment that this really could not be possible without every prayer, dollar, translator, and Brazilian resource that has been sent out way. I feel blessed to be apart of this experience and am hopeful that I have helped you to feel connected to how the Lord is at work and how life in this area of Brazil is lived.

In Christ,

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