Traveling is a great passion of mine, but I never expected it to impact me in the ways that it has. My eyes have been opened to culture, poverty, beauty, and relationships that can not be ended by time or distance. This past summer, I spent two weeks in Brazil. I have never had an experience as incredible as my stay in Nova Almeida.
I traveled to Brazil with a mission group/ choir called Voices of Youth. Every summer, the group travels for three weeks. The goal of this group is to open up our eyes to what the church is doing all over the world and to what we can do to help.
When leaving the airport in Rio with the group, I was expecting to be greeted by beautiful beaches and a lively city, but I was exposed to something I had never seen before. In order to reach the city from the airport, we had to drive through the slums. I couldn’t believe the conditions that these people are living in. Our entire group was silent for the remainder of the bus ride. We wanted to help, but how?
After staying in Rio for two days, we flew to the town of Nova Almeida. Upon arriving, we were told that we were working with the Shade and Freshwater Program for street children; with the children from the slums. I started to regret coming on the trip. How could I help someone in such a difficult situation? We didn’t even speak the same language! For the first few days, I held back from the kids and just watched. They were so friendly with the other members of my group. They seemed to fall in love with us.
The last day, our group had to learn a dance with the kids. A girl grabbed my arm and smiled at me. We began to dance and laugh like we had known each other for years. Despite our cultural and financial differences, we were all people. We all laughed, sang, and danced. In ten days, my family grew to include about 200 Brazilian kids and staff. We all grew so close. Some people say that all our mission group did was play kids; we did nothing. I know better than that.
The day we left, several of the kids came to say goodbye. They brought letters with them for our team. Our interpreter read them to us on the way to the airport. The kids wrote of how we had touched them with poems and pictures. They saw that people countries away cared about them enough to come and visit them, and found that they had worth. Voices of Youth has committed to raise 2,000 dollars a month to send to the Shade and Freshwater Center to help fund the program.
Those kids taught me so many things. They showed me that with love, there are no barriers; that even when you have nothing material wise, all you need is faith in God’s love to be truly wealthy. Their happiness with so little is an example to me and everyone else that lives an average lifestyle. You can be the richest person alive, but without God and love, you have nothing. Be generous with what you have so that kids like the ones in Brazil don’t have to worry about how they will get their next meal. Give, so that others can live. Love, so that others know they are of worth. Travel, so that your eyes can be opened to the world you have been blind to for so long.
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