I am now in my last month here in Brazil and I cant believe how quickly the time has gone. We are busy planning our final three weeks trying to pack them full with all of the things we want to do! I already feel very sad to be leaving; we have made so many amazing friendships here and had so many experiences that it is difficult to comprehend not living here any longer. But we still have some time, and have already set in motion many arrangements so are looking forward to our last three weeks in beautiful Brazil!
January was an action packed month: We welcomed the New Year Brazilian style with a big church service followed by food and all night celebrations, and since then we have been very busy and involved with various church activities.
I was told that Action Teams would give us many new experiences, but when we found ourselves lying face down on muddy grass in the pouring rain in a remote town in Northern Brazil, we had to admit that it was not quite what we expected. We were taking part in a mission trip collaboration between the youth at several different churches in the city of São Luis, Maranhão, where about 100 passionate, enthusiastic, God-seeking young people took over a tiny, isolated town called Matões for four days aiming to bring Jesus to the people there. It was an incredible time we performed theatres, evangelised in the street, showered out of buckets, played loud worship music and held childrens Bible clubs. At the clubs we had over 100 children and we cleaned their teeth and provided food for them and so it was great to be involved with such a worthwhile project for a week.
As you can imagine the mission trip was pretty exhausting, and so afterwards we spent a relaxing week on holiday in a small town called Cedral. It was great to spend time together as a team in a beautiful part of the country, although it was quite daunting as it was the first time we were completely by ourselves in a new town, miles from anywhere!
On the same day we returned home, we went away again for PEPE training, spending four days at a Baptist residential compound. There were about 30 PEPE leaders gathered together and it was great to hear all their stories and see how God had been working at different PEPEs in Maranhão. There were several seminars on new ideas to introduce at PEPE, and although it was in Portuguese we spent our time helping out in whatever way we could. It was great to join together in the morning and evenings to have devotional time and remind ourselves that our common purpose here is to glorify God; we lead worship several times in both English and Portuguese and introduced ourselves to all the teachers. We also helped by making example crafts, looking after the leaders children, helping serve lunch, clean the bathrooms and sorting out the computer equipment for presentations.
PEPE started on the 1st February and the last month has been challenging but very worthwhile. As a new term has begun we have many new children (total of 22) and since they are young and not used to the PEPE setting they have been quite a handful. We had children hitting each other, lots of crying and even running away, yet despite this they are such adorable children and we have loved getting to know them. Its been great watching their progress and seeing them settle down, and weve formed really good relationships with the children and they constantly demand our attention and love being around us. We continue to help in all areas of PEPE life and have thoroughly enjoyed getting involved, ranging from serving lunch, teaching English, simply helping children out on individual activities and showing them love and care. As our Portuguese has developed more, I have found this month much easier than last term as we are able to understand the children and initiate much more conversation with them, and that has been encouraging to see our improvement. Getting up at 5.00am too has also become much easier, I guess because its just become part of our routine. The topic for this term is identity and so the children have been learning about themselves (looking at their height, hand size, thumb print, family etc) and its been exciting to teach them about their identity in Christ and how much they are valued by God. The PEPE leaders continue to amaze us with their determination and love for the kids, and its been great to work alongside such inspirational role models. Recently weve had the privilege of visiting more PEPEs, rather than just simply seeing the PEPE we are working at, and thats been so encouraging to see their work and know that PEPE is becoming an established project and set up in many poor areas, thus helping many children who desperately need it. There are also afternoon PEPEs for school aged children who are struggling to learn at school and its been great to visit them and see the amazing help they are being given. We are going away next week to visit more PEPEs in the interior of Maranhão and I am very much looking forward to this trip.
Weve further plans to visit a prison with a church pastor and a homeless project that gives breakfast to those living on the street, and its amazing to hear all the good work that is going on in this country and see and hear about projects that have an aim to help those in need. The churches are very active in this area and they are aware of the desperate situation that many find themselves in as a result of drugs, alcoholism or a life of crime.
Part of me feels like Ive lived here forever due to the amazing relationships that have been formed with some of the locals, yet the other part of me feels like Ive only just arrived and am in no way ready to go home yet there is still so much that I want to see and do! Rainy season has started here, and by that, I mean its pretty rainy!! It can rain very heavily in part or all of a day, and although we welcome the cooler temperature we hope that this will not affect any of our work here or prevent us from doing what we want to in these last few weeks. The sun however continues to shine and it is still often hot so hopefully we will enjoy a few more visits to the beach and trips out for ice cream!
Thanks for all your support,
Tchau for now
Sofia (my Portuguese name)