For a week now, many of my ATS and NYACK college friends have asked about the mission trip to Brazil. I have attempted to put into words the dramatic life change I experienced and honestly, words still absolutely fail me. Which is rather unusual, seeing as how I am someone who is quite talkative and verbally descriptive. It’s like no matter how much I think about it or how hard I try to explain it, I truly cannot fully put my experience in Recife, into words. And yet here I am writing this blog for you all to read and join in my experience. (And if you have not; do check out the Brazil photo blog)
Out of all the many life altering moments I encountered in Brazil, if there is one that truly changed me, it’s the following:
On Wednesday night, the girls from the rescue home “Betania”, along with the “Shores of Grace” staff and our team got together for a time of worship. We gathered together in a room, and we sat around on the floor, on chairs and mattresses, and sang our hearts out as some of the kids colored and made drawings for us. The brokenness, weariness, hunger and thirst in the room was so thick, I am nearly positive you could cut it with a knife. There was an unspoken desperation for God, in me, in all of us. And as the minutes went by I could begin to feel the love and grace of God begin to satisfy our deepest longings for Him. In a rather unusual scene, I began to sense the presence and pleasure of God, like I never had before.
And then I saw her. A beautiful, young, 13-year-old girl. She sat quietly against the wall, crying. She cried and cried through nearly every song. And I could not help but stare. Something about her, caught my attention. Finally I asked God to make a space for me next to her ( as she was surrounded by others), so that I could join her, if it was His desire. Instantly the girl to her right got up, and began to color at a different spot in the room. She looked at me and noticed me staring, I got up, sat down next to her and grabbed her hand. For the next 20 or so minutes I held her hand as she cried. I cried with her. As I held her hand, I could feel her immense pain. I could feel the shame and the hopelessness she carried. My heart broke. How could someone so young, know such deep heartache? I knew she’d been prostituted and devalued, her tears spoke of the abuse she’d identified as her identity for as long as she could remember.
Yet in the midst of this hopelessness, I felt the depth of God’s love. I thought I had truly encountered this love, and I shared my personal experience in my post “Pierced by Love”. But honestly, what I saw and felt as I held this little girl’s hand was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I was caught in the middle of two realities. The reality of her pain and her past, and the reality of a hope and a future in Christ.
Despite all of my own personal experiences and lessons learned at the Alliance Theological Seminary, nothing could have prepared me for this moment. The moment in which the veil of my perception was torn down, and for the first time, in my entire life, I could see what God saw. Worship ended far too quickly for me. And I knew I had only but a couple of moments to share this love, and hope with her. I shared a few words with her. I gave her something tangible to hold on to. And then I asked her if I could pray for her. She said yes. (I, of course had a translator for this.)
A special thanks to Adam LiVecchi ( from We See Jesus Ministries) for capturing this life changing moment for me.
I placed my hand on her shoulder and instantly I felt the Lord’s desire to redeem and make ALL things new in her life. I saw how He planned to use everything that was meant to destroy her, for her good and for His glory. I knew that no matter what horrible thing she’d gone through, He really had ”a hope and a future” for her. That her past was covered fully by the blood of Christ shed on the cross, and all God the Father was concerned with, was creating something deeply beautiful and profound out of her life. I spoke deep words of life, that were not only for her, but for me. Words that let the both of us know, that regardless of what we’ve been through, we look like our Daddy and He soooooo delights in us.
She cried. I hugged her. We parted ways. When I was asked by Adam ( from We See Jesus Ministries), what I experienced while praying for her, because he could see how powerful the moment was, I could not speak. I cried. I sat on a mattress on the floor and cried. Because that night I’d been given an eternal glimpse at” how wide, how deep and how long God’s love” is for us.
My perception has been changed forever. It’s like I got an upgrade on the prescription of my spiritual contact lenses. I understand in my very being, that with the same hope God looked at that girl, He looks at EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING on the planet.
There is not one person who is hopeless in the sight of God…
Our team and some of the amazing ” Shores of Grace” Staff at the base. ( Left to right) Evan, me, Aaron, Caleb, Aline, Gi, Jonathan , Glaucia and Stephen.