Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Brazil 2013 Post One

I wanted to blog sooner about our trip to Brazil for those of you who were praying for us.  Since getting back from Brazil 10 days ago we have moved into a new house, and are busy prepping our old house to be rented out.  Busy times here in the Thorp household.  Busy, but blessed!

Let me preface by saying that I could blog for days about this trip and its impact.
We left for Brazil on June 20th, in the afternoon.  Our team consisted of Larry Allen, Josh and Stephanie Thorp, Kim Bell and Christine Buck.  We flew to Chicago and then onto Sao Paulo.  I had never flown on a plane overnight.  I know it was a mission trip and I should be positive, but it was horrible.  I even had an entire row to myself and it was still horrible.  All night we kept hitting turbulence causing the flight attendants to come through the cabin to make sure seat belts were on.  If you didn't respond they would physically wake you to check.  This happened 10-15 times.   For some reason the air on the plane completely dried out my sinuses to the point that it was painful.  All night flights are  not one of my favorite things. But I am thankful for safe travel and the fact that we arrived on time.  Immediately after arriving in Sao Paulo we made the hour drive out to Camp California.
We stopped at a truck stop type place on our way out to camp to buy bottled water and get something to eat.  Sure we had just had two "full" meals on the plane, but for some reason we were still hungry. ;)  I am not proud to say that my first meal in Brazil was Coke and French Fries from a restaurant called "New York".  Though, ice cold Brazilian Coke cannot be beat and it became a desired commodity for our team through the rest of the trip.
We got to camp in the afternoon and the kids were scheduled to arrive that evening around 9pm.  So different than the way we do camp in America, where we wouldn't think of arriving at camp at night like that, it's past kids' bed time...  During the time that we were in Brazil there were protests against the government taking place throughout the country.  Often protesters would block the major highways and roadways stopping all traffic.  Unfortunately this happened the night the kids were supposed to come out to camp.  I can only imagine how heart broken the children were.  Many of them were already loaded on the bus when the were told that they would have to go home until the next morning.  It would have been easy to grow disheartened at this sudden change in plans.  We purposed not to grow weary, and to instead pray for the kids and the circumstance.  We also welcomed the extra bit of rest that night.  :)
Many of the children that come out to Camp California have never been outside of their favela (slum).  This trip is the only trip many of them will ever take outside of their neighborhood.  When the kids arrived, the energy level at camp went through the roof.  The kids were thrilled to be there and didn't seem to have let the change in plan affect their outlook.  We jumped into our first of 4 sessions on the story of Jonah.  Josh spoke for all 4 sessions, in Portuguese.  While I could not understand a single word he said, I am confident that he did an amazing job.  We also led a craft time, game time, small group time and group activity time for the children.  During their free time many of them played soccer and swam in the pool.
One thing I noticed quickly after the kids arrived was how nicely they were dressed.  To be honest I was expecting rags, or filthy clothing.  What I found out later was first, the brands were all knock offs, if not knock offs then likely stolen by someone, and second, the outfit they wore to camp was likely their nicest of very few, if any other clothes.  When we saw some of the same kids later in the week during our visits to the favelas, they were often in the very same outfit the wore to camp.  Brazilians take pride in their appearance no matter where they live or where they come from.  You would never see people going to the school or the store dressed in sweats or pajamas as seems to be the trend here. 
I was amazed over and over throughout the week at how hard the Restoration Ministries staff and the many volunteers work each day, often six days a week. The cooks at camp were all volunteer, they cooked delicious meals (seriously delicious!) and were in the kitchen much of the day cooking for the 60+ people at camp.  They didn't have fancy stoves or equipment.  They didn't have prepackaged food to assist them in their efforts.  They pretty much had large pots and spoons.  There wasn't even a dishwasher to wash the plates, cups and utensils that were used at each meal.  Everything was done by hand.  And they do it all to show the kids love, and to share with them God's love for them.  A love they might otherwise never experience.
On Saturday night we had a huge bonfire and smores.  It was insane.  Crazy insane.  Opening those bags of marshmallows and chocolate unleashed a frenzy like I have never seen before.  People were literally getting poked with sticks and fire was flying in the excitement to reach the smores.  I am sure it was comical to watch as our team tried to communicate with the kids in a vain attempt to find out if their was their first, or second or fifth smore that they were intensely begging for.
During the last session their was an invitation to accept Christ or rededicate their life.  I don't the number of children that came up.  It was a lot.  I am not so na├»ve as to think that this was a first time decision or rededication for many of these kids, but it was real.  It was emotional.  Language barriers did not prevent us from experience God moving in the hearts of these children in real and powerful ways.   Each child was prayed for by a staff member of volunteer.  We can only pray that they continue to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the many oppositions they will face in their lifetime.
Camp California is beautiful.  It is stunningly beautiful when compared to the deplorable conditions in which these kids will likely live their entire lives.  God knew exactly what He was doing when he created this place and destined it to be used in the capacity that it is being used today.