Someone said something during our brief stay in Brazil that really stuck with me: "There's not a whole lot that's done on a mission trip that can't be done back at home." With this being my first "mission" trip, there's so much I could talk about regarding what I saw, experienced, and learned. But the concept of "missions" truly being wherever you are and whatever you're doing is my biggest take away from this trip. I've heard before that missions are here at home, too, but I still had the concept in my mind that it meant painting a house or going door-to-door. Those things are still great; I just mean to say that it's the image I had in my head when I thought about missions. I could not have been more mistaken.
My favorite and most cherished part of the trip was the night ministry, which Eric (the missionary we worked with) does once or twice a week. We joined him in prayer walking through the areas where prostitutes and transvestites work at night. We talked with them, looked them in the eyes, asked their names, prayed with them, gave them gospels of John, and hugged them. Even as I write this I know there is no way to express what that experience was like.
On Friday night Brooke and I were able to go back out with Eric again. On Wednesday (the first time) there weren't many people out, but on Friday, there were women at almost every bus stop. One woman in particular continues to be on my heart. Her name is Vanessa, and she was wearing only jeans and a bra when we stopped to speak with her. It was easy to see she was shocked that we obviously weren't there as customers. When Brooke gave her the John gospel she said in Portuguese, "This is the Word of God." (Sidenote: isn't God AWESOME?? We didn't even speak the same language, but that doesn't stop Him from working...) She knew what she held in her hands. She began to walk away but Eric asked if we could pray with her, so she turned around. I placed my hand on her shoulder and Brooke placed her hand on mine. Vanessa stood stiffly as I prayed (in English) but before I knew it she had lifted her hands to form a circle with me and Brooke. I started to cry as I was praying because I so desperately wanted her to be safe both physically and spiritually from the bondage Satan has her so entangled in. I did not see a prostitute in front of me; I saw my Brazilian friends from camp, my friends from back home, and even myself. We've ALL been entangled insin before we open ourselves to the grace offered to us.
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." -2 Cor. 2:14
Upon coming home, I realize that it is not only prostitutes or those caught in sexual sin that need to be shown the love of Jesus. Every person I meet is NOT defined as a liar, a thief, or any other sin. They are God's precious creations, so desperately in need of grace, as we all are. I may not be able to talk to prostitutes in Macon, GA (but then again, who knows) but I can look people in the eye, ask them their name, and tell them God loves them. I can allow God to show Himself rather than me. It is not by my power that I can see people as He sees them, it is His grace that allows me to be a vessel of His love to others. He allows me to see each person as someone in need of love and grace. I can carry this truth with me every moment of every day. Joshua 3:5 says, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." I read this at the very beginning of the trip and I was very excited at what God was about to do through the team. Now that I am back at home, though, I realize that every tomorrow turns into today. Every day is an opportunity to sanctify ourselves from our flesh and allow God to do wonders among us. Amen!