After spending a week in Rio de Janeiro, my mission’s team learned what it means to give by receiving from the people we least expected. My teammate, Adwoa Asare, wrote her impressions from a moment in a condemned, illegal landfill.
I came to Rio de Janeiro to find love, to reconnect with the things of God that I first loved and to encounter the God who first loved me. My life experience and professional work have made me a very well-rounded person. But, it softened my tenacity for the exhilarating fire of following God. I hoped by partnering with an organization like Adventures in Missions, I would have a chance to seek after God and serve the direct needs of His people.
One encounter that was particularly meaningful to me was during our visit to Jardim Gramacho, a neighborhood that literally sits on an illegal landfill. We travelled to Jardim (a Portuguese word that means “garden”) with local guides who give ongoing outreach to the residents.
We walked the streets with our guides saying hi to the neighbors. There was nothing glamorous about our visit. The few gifts we brought were toys and toiletries from our team member’s home church. Our dialogue was limited but our AIM team of missionaries smiled as much as we could and tried to soak up what life was like for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
At the end of our tour, one of the families approached us and offered us a hot meal for the road: hot dogs. Now here in the USA we may not think a lot about hot dogs, other than how many Takeru Kobayashi will eat in 12 minutes during the 4th of July contest at Coney Island.
However on this day, the hot dogs provided to us meant everything.
This family had hardly a possession that wasn’t used or a hand me down. There were too many people living in the two room house for me to count. This act of kindness and radical hospitality shown by the family in Jardim was a real life example of the widow’s mite. While their hospitality was not odd by Brazilian standards, there was no earthly reason in my mind for why they would display enormous gratitude. We came expecting nothing, and they gave us everything.
In this moment, I saw God.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
Days later, I still don’t know whether we were the angels or them…
So while I came to Brazil looking for love, what I did not expect was to fall “in” love. As I walked the streets of Rio de Janeiro, halfway through our trip, a still small voice said to me “I love this place”. It caught me off guard and I said out loud “really?!?” It startled me that I could fall deeply in love with a city and its people in such a short amount of time. But when you seek God and seek the things of God, your heart breaks for the things that break His heart and loves the things that He loves. God loves the city of Rio de Janeiro and He placed a deep love for the city within my heart. I will never forget this experience and I can’t wait to go back!
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13
*Photos courtesy of Nina Boe.