Hello world! Me and my fellow classmates touched down on American soil last week, and I thought I should at least make an attempt at telling the internet about what I learned and experienced in São Paulo, Brazil. If anything comes of this, it will be helpful for me to process my thoughts from the trip-but I do hope this helps you imagine this month for yourself as you travel in my shoes.
Going into the trip, I tried not to have expectations. After all, a common quote I like to reference from William Shakespeare says
“Expectation is the root of all heartache”
, and I think it has finally started to rub off on me. However, I have found that expectations are inevitable, and as the trip trudged on I seemed to unearth buried expectations and “wish dreams” of how I thought the trip would go, leaving me somewhat disappointed at times. Luckily I didn’t take those disappointments too seriously-there was so much growth and learning happening around me and directly to me! So much so that the disappointments were almost immediately brushed aside; not completely forgotten but positively rejected as something that would only taint my perspective (something I knew I couldn’t let happen if I was to have an open heart and mind about the people and culture surrounding me).
Anyways, so I came in with expectations (realized or not). I was hoping I had better idea of how I was going to lay out the things I learned but I have no idea where to start. The beginning sounds like a good place to start I guess:
The first week we were in São Paulo (the 3rd largest city in the world), the squad worked with Memorial Baptist. The translators were very warm and friendly, and they really made us feel more at home and became good friends with all of us very fast! While we were there we split into two groups and each went to a different community in the city. The group I was in went to Dirce. Both groups did similar things though, i.e. leading children’s and youth services.
This week with Memorial was a whirlwind because there was so much “new” around us-everything from artsy graffiti to learning to put toilet paper in the trash can (NOT the laundry hamper…). It was a good new. Exciting and exhilarating. Our eyes could scarcely take everything in-it was like the first time you watch a good movie; even though your eyes are processing as much as they can, the next time you see it, you notice how much you missed the first time. That’s how that week felt. Hopefully I have the opportunity to go back sometime later and have that experience of sweeping up all the details I missed the first time:)
The second and third week immersed in São Paulo we were at Palavra da Vida (Word of Life) which was a place in the state of São Paulo (but in a different city) that has camp in the summer and winter. It personally reminded me of YL summer camp the one year I went (it was awesome by the way) and that might have had something to do with the fact that it was started 50 years ago by two Americans. Anyways, we were at the camp mainly to be support staff. We happened to be there for the last two weeks of camp, so the staff were pretty exhausted physically and emotionally by this point and I think we did a good job of lightening their load a little.
Each of us Americans were assigned different jobs at the beginning of the week. I was in apoio the first week which was basically like decorations and we painted things for themed dinners, and the second week I was working in the kitchen which was actually quite fun and involved singing T Swizzle and having bubble wars:)
The first week was quite different from the second week in many ways. There were physical differences (I had a different job, different campers in my room, different weather) and emotional differences (different campers, processing things back home, building relationships, having my whole being exhausted-really though); and some of them overlap and go hand-in-hand.
I pride myself on being able to adapt and adjust to new environments almost automatically, and over a number of experiences I have realized that there is good and not so much good that results from that. I don’t mean to go sidetracking off in a whole new direction, but my point is that the first week at camp, I seemed to have no problems at all jumping right into this new place filled with new people and routines that would soon become familiar and comfortable.
The girls in my room were aged from 14-16 and I discovered that I really enjoy that age because I felt like I could connect with them the most. Something that completely shocked me was how much of an influence I automatically had on the campers just because I was a “gringa” or foreigner. That was something I had only experienced once before, in Malawi; but even then the kids were usually too shy to interact with us much at first. The girls in my room immediately began asking me so many questions-many of them could speak english but the ones that couldn’t had their questions translated for me to answer. I started to realize how much more powerful my words and actions would have on them, I was being more closely watched than I was used to, and honestly it gave me confidence to start conversations with them. It made me want to be more intentional (there’s that Impact word haha) with getting to know and understand them.
I could write a lot more about the campers and what we did, but a lot of what you probably want to know is on the Impact 360 Brazil blog here. Just look for the São Paulo Squad for specific updates from our team!
This is getting long so I’ll talk more about what I learned while I was there. A theme that started appearing I don’t know when, became more obvious by the end of the trip: relationships. Relationships are huge for life in general, but I have always struggled with maintaining and finding good ones. And not just one type either, but from all levels starting with girl-to-girl friendships all the way to dating relationships. It wasn’t necessarily something I expected to learn on this trip, but then again, what do my expectations matter anyways? Seems God always wants so surprise me with lessons much bigger and better than I ever imagined:)
I can’t pinpoint many distinct moment where I noticed a shift in my understanding, but it was mostly a gradual realization at where I have thought wrong and learning new things about what they should be. I became closer with just about everyone on the SP squad, and most of the team (8/13) were guys. This is probably an eye roll moment because what the heck, relationships with the opposite sex should not be something scary. But for me it kinda was! I had just never before had a close relationship with a guy outside of a dating relationship and it had always just felt slightly awkward to me for some reason. The short of it is that I made significant progress and you will be happy/relieved to know that I don’t find it scary to be friends with boys anymore. I know it sounds silly but it was a real challenge for me!
There were various other emotional things I processed the second week of camp but it’s a long story and it’s probably better to ask me about it than for me to try to find the right way to type it out in a way that makes sense haha. So I’ll leave it at that:)
Something I found as an incredible relief to my very tired soul especially the second week of camp was worshipping in English. It was exciting and even somewhat edifying to worship (or try haha) in Portuguese with the rest of the Brazilians during their times of worship, but I quickly realized it wasn’t the same as singing in your own native language. It made the few times we had our own times of worship so much sweeter and powerful because I was filled with appreciation and gratitude at being able to sing at all with a group of people I have grown to love so dearly and who love and search after God with their lives. It is a beautiful thing, being able to worship with your voice and some instruments; and I reached a new and much deeper depth of appreciation at that ability He has given us to lift our hearts up to Him, no matter what we are going through-there is always a reason to sing.
I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who prayed or commented on the Impact blog, or supported us in any other way while we were preparing for and while we were actually experiencing the trip!! As a team, we saw the power of prayer and knew that God had gone before us and prepared people’s hearts (ours too of course!) for our arrival. So thank you so so much for all your encouragement and prayer-know that it had power:)
Until the next adventure!