My mission to Brazil was filled with surprises – from the layover in Denver before heading to Rio de Janeiro to the layover in Denver at the end of the trip.
In Denver International Airport, I had some time to get a little better acquainted with the sixteen students from Charis Bible College who made up the team. One of the things that I discovered was that a number of the students had some serious reservations concerning the trip – things like the fear of speaking in public and the fear of meeting and traveling and living in close quarters with new people. As we made our way to South America and spent the following twelve days living and ministering together, I saw God totally unravel everyone’s fear and concern. Those who were reluctant to be thrown into an unfamiliar environment readily adapted and became integral parts of the team. Those who were afraid of public speaking discovered that they had great things to share with the people of Brazil and that they could do so with ease and effectiveness through the anointing of the Holy the Holy Spirit. One student essentially became the “poster boy” of personal triumph for the team when he overcame his fear of jumping into the ocean off the pier in front of the mission compound where we were staying. It wasn’t until the next to the last day of our stay that he mustered the courage to try, but once he took the plunge (pun totally intended), he couldn’t stop enjoying the thrill time and again.
We saw repeated examples of God’s great and personalized love for His children. One particular example was a special blessing for one student who had asked me before we left the States if he would have a chance to purchase a jersey from one of the Brazilian national football (soccer) teams. I, of course, reassured him that they would be readily available in many of the shops. However, he didn’t have to wait for the chance to go look for the shirt because at the first place we ministered, a gentleman that he prayed for called him aside after the service and explained that he wanted to bless the student because his ministry had so blessed him. At that, he handed him a Brazilian football jersey. It was so amazing that out of all the students on our team and out of all the individuals in the meeting that God put that one particular student with that one particular man and gave him a feeling to bless the student with a physical gift and that this specific gift would be the exact jersey that he desired.
I’m sure that this example of the soccer jersey may seem to be a bit less spiritual than what you might expect in a report of a mission trip. Certainly, it is not a miraculous healing, a dramatic deliverance, or a supernatural stroll across the sea; however, it does set the tone for the whole rest of the trip. Since much of the ministry that we were to do in Brazil was to be in different rehab centers, I was really blessed when I began to meet the students who had been assigned to my team. Most had spent part of their lives as drug and alcohol abusers, some had been drug dealers, a number had spent time in rehab programs, and one lady had lived through sexual abuse from the age of four until eighteen. They knew exactly how to relate to the hurts and brokenness in the lives of those they were to minster to. Others who had experienced supernatural healings had a special empathy for those who were suffering with physical afflictions, and their testimonies were exactly what the people of Brazil needed to hear to build their faith. And yes, we did see many healings – including one man who walked in with crutches and walked out carrying them under his arm and one woman suffering from a mosquito-borne disease similar to Zika who instantaneously received feeling back into her numb fingers when the students prayed for her. We spent one day at a soccer camp for at-risk kids designed to help keep them off the streets and out of gangs. Before the soccer matches, we had opportunities to share testimonies and short messages from the scriptures. When I picked the students who were to share that day, I didn’t realize in advance that each one that I selected had had been through a traumatic experience during his or her childhood and had a story of triumph to share with these vulnerable youngsters.
One surprise came when one of the local pastors pulled out his cell phone to show me photos of the two of us from my visit four years earlier. He went on to explain that he had to be coerced to attend the meeting because he was so discouraged with the ministry that he was ready to “throw in the towel.” However, the message that I shared that day totally turned his life and ministry around. During this trip to Brazil, I had the opportunity to visit his church where there were more people seated outside than could get inside the building. I also had the occasion to visit and pray over the new church that he is building – several times bigger than his present storefront. He then asked me if I would be willing to come back again in a few months to dedicate the building when it is completed. I readily agreed, especially since I was already planning to return for the release of the Portuguese version of Maximum Impact since it was not ready for this trip. Of course, I was disappointed when I found out about the delay; however, when one pastor expressed to me that he was “salivating” for the new book, I realized that the pastors there were even more disappointed than I was.
Our last day of ministry in Brazil was a total surprise – in fact a whole series of surprises. We were invited to minster to an indigenous Indian tribe that had recently begun to receive the gospel. After taking our vehicles as far up the mountain as the rough roads would allow us, we got out and hiked the rest of the distance to their remote village – each of us carrying heavy boxes filled with food and supplies that we were to present to the villagers. With faces painted to signify their tribal identification, they greeted us with a warm welcome and their traditional music and dances. They eagerly listened as we shared some simple gospel messages and then accepted us into their lives by offering to paint the students’ faces and arms with their tribal markings. They even allowed me to wear the chief’s crown.
One last big surprise was waiting for me when I was able to connect to internet in the Denver airport to read the emails that had come in during the flight home. One of them was from the Every Home for Christ office asking me if I would be able to go to Brazil to do a training for their leaders there. The amazing thing was that they had proposed dates that exactly coincided with the dates that I had agreed upon to return for the book release and the church dedication.