Brazil 2011 – The Epilogue

The Brazil team will be giving their report in church on July 24th. Don’t miss this. It will be awesome.

Day 11
Hardest day of trip. Getting in buses, saying good-bye to missionaries is always very difficult for Amy and I. I have a lot of different thoughts running thru my head.

My first trip to Porto Alegre with WOL was in 2002. For the first 5 years, there was very little fruit to report on when we came home. We would go to schools, talk to students, have retreats, go to churches, work with leaders and basically see no decisions at all. This went on for years. It was work. Lots of relationship building. Lots of conversations.

Around 4 years ago, I noticed it changing a bit. More schools wanted us to come by and visit. A lot more schools. Public, private, and religious. More students were showing up to the retreats.

Then the decisions for Christ started trickling in. This trip alone we’ve seen God reach at least 30 (confirmed) students to Christ, an opportunity to share the Gospel with some teachers at the public school, an opportunity to speak to atheists in a private school, and got into 3 new schools this year. We had 45 students come forward to hear more about Jesus. I got to sit and help with 9 area churches’ youth leaders plus the WOL missionaries and DTC students.

The work has been worth it.

There are a lot of conflicting emotions going on inside me…and I’m guessing the others as well. It feels like home when we come. Home. That’s a powerful word. Not completely home but close. Every now and then I’ll catch myself dreaming of ways to move down here. Sell everything, raise support, live out at the camp on pinhaos and pastels. God interrupts the dream every time. “Is this what I’ve called you to do?” I know the answer is no. At least it’s a “not yet.” Maybe instead of retiring to the beach or mountains or where ever it is people retire, we’ll retire here.

I look over at the students we brought. They are different. We’ve got to talk with them about re-entry. It sucks. I wish there was a nicer word for it. I don’t like that word. But I struggle to find an alternative at this point. There is this explosion of conflicting emotions. You’re glad to be home and in your own bed. You miss the Brazil family. You’re excited about the God stories that you were able to be a part of but you notice the glazed over look people get when you talk about Brazil for the next 25 minutes uninterrupted. You like the creature comforts of your life here but if you’re honest you didn’t really miss any of them over the last 10 days. You wonder if the life you’ve chosen here is as valuable as a life given away in mission work.

There really isn’t an easy solution. For some, this trip will ruin them forever. After college or maybe even during college, they will choose to be a missionary. But in the meantime, the best solution is just to push through it. Keep praying and doing what God tells you to do. He will make the path straight for you. We’ll have a photo party, report to the church. I’ll tell them to journal, write the trip down. Keep praying.

It’s a sobering conversation with the students. They are already feeling it. It’s part of the experience…

It’s Always An Adventure…
Reality hits when we land in Rio. When you enter the country of Brazil, they stamp your passport but they also give you this very flimsy, very easy to lose piece of paper with the same stamp that they put in your passport. It’s called the Entry/Exit Paper for Brazil. Very original, I know. They tell you when you enter the country – keep this paper with you at all times, you will need this paper when you leave the country. In my 9 years of going to Brazil, 7 different trips – I have been given this paper and I return it when I leave. That’s it. It’s almost like it is a test to see if I’m responsible enough to stay in the country.

When we check in at the airport in Porto Alegre to leave, the airline official asks for these papers. We have 5 out of the 6. He is very concerned for us. We look through bags, pockets, everything. No luck. The guy tells us – you will more than likely have to pay a fine, a “large fine” when we get to passport control in Rio.

The person whose paper we can’t find is just distraught. I’m a bit irritated as well but the truth of the matter is this – we can’t do anything about it except push onward. If it’s a fine, it’s a fine. We’ll pay it and get home. But I also remember the great advice of my friend Harry Anderson who always told me – don’t make these a crisis before they really are.

We get to Rio and there is hardly anyone in line at the Passport control desk. Which in this one instance, really isn’t good news. That means they aren’t going to be in a hurry to get us out. It’s time to pull the “we’re clueless Americans on a mission trip.” All 6 of us goes up to the Passport lady at the same time. This is normally a HUGE no-no and will get you pointed at and screamed at faster than you can imagine.

For some reason, this doesn’t happen. The lady behind the glass smiles and awaits my explanation. We’re a mission trip from the States, we’re heading home, great trip, beautiful country, blah, blah… She is still smiling and grabs the stack of papers, our passports, and boarding passes. Starts stamping away in the passports. Never looked at any of the papers.

And there you are…no crisis. Thank you, God.

Now that we are back…
I’m very proud of this group of students. It was one of our smaller groups but it was also one of our best groups. They were a team, liked being around each other. They liked being around the missionaries and DTC students. They each had their own wall in the trip and they tackled it. No complaints. No whining. Just determined to do what God had called us to do.

They are still teenagers so we still had those moments of – “did he/she just say that out loud?” And laughter almost always followed. I have laughed very hard over the last 10 days. It has been medicine for my soul. It’s been medicine for all of their souls. What huge life change moments we’ve witness on this trip in each of them. Amy and I saw it clearly. The trip was something significant for each student. Each one made a huge contribution on the trip. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys — in a good kind of pride.

So who is going with us in 2012?

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