I’ve been meaning for a while to post a few pictures from our recent mission trip to Brazil. We actually got home on Friday the 20th, went straight to Blue Sky for lunch and then had Ruby Tequila’s for dinner (we had to replenish.) But, hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Carley and Carrie-Anne and I actually joined our Central youth group at the Itaquera church in Sao Paulo early on Thursday morning. Whitney and Valerie seemed really glad to see us after six days — as glad as they could muster at 7:00 am, I guess. Of course, they already had everything figured out: the language, the food, the church building, the games, and the schedule. So we leaned heavily on them for the first few hours.
Most of that Thursday was spent doorknocking the immediate neighborhoods surrounding the church building, inviting people to Gary’s leadership seminar and the VBS. Lots of kids. Lots of kites. Soccer (futbol!) in the streets. And poverty. Wow, the poverty. God, help me. I forget all the time that I really am in the top five percent of the wealthiest people in the world. I must disappoint him constantly. That night we all split up and went to small groups in the Itaquera members’ homes where we studied from Revelation and ate more snacks and sweets. C-A and I were blessed to spend the evening at Carmen’s home where her kind hospitality blew us out of the water. Fabio, an Adam Sandler look-alike with a personality to match, was there with his wife and children. And it was at Carmen’s house where I shared a Bible with Marcel and his sister, Marianna.
The VBS was Saturday. Carrie-Anne and I planned the entire six hours around the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with the five loaves and two fish. The theme was service to others and the fact that God uses our gifts, regardless of the size, to do great things. So we told the story in a couple of ways, weaved baskets made of yarn, went fishing behind a makeshift puppet stage, ate goldfish and Swedish Fish gummies for snacks, decorated the sidewalks around the church building with colorful chalk depictions of the day’s stories, and sang and sang and sang. We had right at 25 kids, give or take a couple here and there (there was some coming and going involved). And I believe we were all made a little more aware of the grace of our God who somehow makes our meager and shallow offerings worthy of his eternal glory.
I preached for the Itaquera congregation on Sunday. It was a halting sermon marked by fitful starts and stops while Sidney interpreted for the patient brothers and sisters in the pews. I tried to paint a portrait with my words of the mystery and majesty of the Kingdom of God as it had been represented in Sao Paulo all week. Here we were, all in one room, all around the common table, worshiping our one Father. Brown people and white people. Portuguese and English. Young and old. Rich and poor. Corinthians football fans and Santos football fans. Painting together, worshiping together, cleaning, praying, teaching children, eating, singing, shopping together. One people. A family. God’s Holy Spirit is the only one who can do this. This doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. Complete equality. Perfect love. Genuine family. People from different continents with seemingly nothing in common brought together by our God and bonded forever by the redeeming blood of the Christ. That is God’s salvation! We had experienced it all week together. So marvelous. So wonderful. So spectacular. So magnificent. Anticipated by God’s people for so long. To quote the apostle Peter, “Even angels long to look.”
It was a decent sermon. But nothing at all like the illustration that followed. All the Texans and Brazilians on the stage together, singing “Jesus Is Lord” and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” Whoa. Powerful. We thought we would really impress them with our singing that one verse in Portuguese. But I was almost driven to my knees in amazement and gratitude and humility when they started singing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” to us in English. Wow. What a blessing.
The huge church potluck was a feast of food and fellowship, capped by Corbin outjumping Trey and Barrett and out-muscle-ing Blake for the Brazilian soccer jersey. The underdog won it and we were all delighted by his enthusiastic victory strut.
I didn’t learn anything on this trip that I didn’t already know in my brain. But what I actually experienced in my heart, what I felt in my soul, served as an unforgettable reminder that what I know in my brain really, really, really matters. Surrounded by my Brazilian brothers and sisters in Christ, listening to them sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” I was reminded that God’s name is praised in Portuguese every day. Every day, our God’s name is praised in Chinese and Spanish and German and English. His name is praised every day on every continent, in every city, in every corner of this world. His name is praised by people of every nation and language and tribe and tongue. You know why? Because he is Lord. He is God. Because he reigns and all the earth is filled with his glory. To belong to God is to belong to something so much bigger and everlasting than most of us can wrap our brains around. We need experiences like our trip to Brazil to remind us how large and eternal is the Kingdom of our God.
What a blessing to be his children.