Brazil, Day 1-2

I may never get through all the days in Brazil but I’m going to at least try. For whatever reason, my wordpress app – which normally works without problem – failed miserably in Brazil. None of what I wrote saved, so we start from scratch.

The first two days are normally a blur. It is 24 hours of travel but…going there doesn’t really feel like 24 hours of travel. This year we have two vets on the trip – Caroline and Cooper. This will be my 8th (or 9th) trip, Amy’s 7th (or 8th). The last couple of years have been very different kinds of trip – for the better. Now we do more hands-on ministry with Brazilians than just training and ministering to the missionaries that minister to Brazilians. It’s been a great shift and change in our focus. It took 5 years to earn that trust from PVSul and the school systems here. Most “missionaries” only make it a couple of years, give up and move on. Southern Brazil is just that hard to minister to – there are friendly but it takes a long time to earn the right to speak the Gospel here.

So after 10 years of coming, we are now able to go to schools, work directly with Brazilian churches and it is having a huge impact. Taking teens is key to the trip. Southern Brazilian teens want to meet and interact with teens from the US.

Here’s a little blurb about each of the teens we are taking.

Cooper is sort of a vet. He went two years ago but this is his first “working” trip. But he at least has an idea of what to expect. He’s the youngest on the trip, 14, about to be a freshman in high school. There are two things about Cooper that I admire in him immensely. First, he will try almost anything once – even if it scares the heck out of him. He’s deathly afraid of heights. But he’ll climb a ropes course. He’s got his father amazing speed (faster than a sloth, on par with turtles) but he will try any sport – soccer, basketball, disc gold, ultimate frisbee – whatever. He likes to play – it’s his way to connect with people. And he’s good at it. Second thing – he’s a goofball. I mean that in the best possible way. He can have you crying in laughter one minute, rolling your eyes at his attempt at a pun the next. He’s 14 and at times it shows. But I can’t question his heart for missions and the Brazilian people.

Caroline is a little firecracker of personality. She’s ruthlessly funny, growing in her faith. She’s got some ‘war wounds’ of growing up. Nothing major, but enough for you to realize that her faith is becoming her own. She’s moved to another state her senior year and this is her ‘last trip’ with her home church. From the outside looking in – I think she’s handled the move with incredible grace and maturity. She could have made life miserable for her parents – moving her senior year in high school. But so far – she hasn’t. The trip last year was one of those breakthrough moments for her. We pushed her beyond her limits and she had to make a choice as to how she was going to deal with it. She “chose wisely.” She’s awesome to have around, always flirting with the edge of appropriateness with her humor. Reminds me of someone else I know — me. I’m glad to have her back on this trip. She’s a blessing.

If Caroline is a little firecracker, Lizzie is a mortar round. I have never in my life met a person so happy all the time. If you didn’t know – or spent the ungodly amounts of time we did with her on this trip – you’d think it was all part of this act. It’s not. It’s who she is. And it’s awesome. (Don’t tell her I said that.) Every student on a mission trip of this kind – complete immersion of sorts – hits a wall. Almost every adult hits it as well. It’s the “I don’t understand anything anyone is saying to me all the time and I’m tired, cold, wet, hungry – did I say tired already? – stretched, frustrated, exhausted and I want to go home” moment. Every one we’ve ever taken on this trip has hit at some point. It’s going to be interesting to see if Lizzie hits it and what she does with it. She’s a joy to be around.

McKenzie Gnagi, senior, thinker, quiet and one of the toughest people I know. She’s an athlete and has had to fight through some injuries this year. Anything physical or mental that is thrown at her this week – she’ll handle. What about the spiritual and emotional? She’s a processor, think college professor stuck in an 18 year old girl’s body. Amy’s been discipling her for almost two years – so our family knows her pretty well. But my guess is that she is not all that easy to get to know from the outside. That will be something she has to overcome this trip with the focus time span we have here.

Taylor Gnagi – miss Happy. She’s got a sensitive spot. She’s a lot like Cooper – funny, will try most anything. Her attitude is amazing. She just soaks it all in and is constantly giggling and laughing. I don’t think she realizes how gifted she is and how incredible of a leader she could be. She relates to everyone well and she’s a natural for this kind of trip. She’s also a ridiculous athlete. And she’s easy to tease. My question for her – will she reach outside her self a bit to realize the potential she has? Will the positive outlook still be there after days of little to no sleep and freezing rain?

Paige is our “Big Sister” of the trip. 21, senior at ESU. Star-softball player in high school and freshman year in college. Injuries to her knee forced her out of softball. She’s going to be a nurse. Her best friend is from Joa Pessoa, Brazil. (More on her in a second.) She’s speaks a little Portuguese. She is one of our introverts on the trip. This trip can be a disaster for introverts. There is very little “alone/recharge” time. We’ve tried to get more pockets of that kind of time over the last couple of years – but the living situation alone doesn’t really lend itself to that. My hunch on Paige is that she is going to be awesome with the one-on-one, personal conversations on this trip. The traveling to schools and giving a presentation may stretch her a bit. And that’s okay.

Moema is a Brazilian from Joa Pessoa. If you could only hear me try to pronounce that… Moema was an exchange student in Topeka at Washburn High three years ago. Her and Paige hit it off and they have been best of friends since. She is studying to be a doctor and has never lived anywhere colder than 70 degrees F. I am not kidding. I don’t know her as well but it’s going to be awesome to have a translator around.

Why write all this down about those who are going with us this week? Because they all will be tested this week in one way or another. Physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally – to the core of who they are. It needs to be this way. We all need this but so few of us put ourselves in the position to be tested like they will be tested over the next 12 days. Amy and I will be tested as well. The cool thing is that we get to walk through this with each other. We get to help each other process it, figure it out. AND THAT IS WHY I LOVE GOING TO BRAZIL!!

Yes, we will help PVSul get into schools. We will help youth workers be better at their craft, DTC students and missionaries with their English. We’ll witness and even lead some people to Christ. And all of that is awesome and good. But the life change that these students will go through has a larger impact than just what we “accomplish” in Brazil. And I look forward to this.

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