International experiences in my undergraduate career changed my life. Watching these students and their experiences over that last three weeks has changed my life. I am blessed to have walked this journey with them as they discovered more about the world we live in, the God we serve and who we are as His creation. Here are some reflections from a few students. There are so many other great reflections–all you have to do is ask one of the students on the trip.
When people hear words, they respond cognitively. Words change people. Language is needed to make this response meaningful. God created the world by speaking. Thus, the universe needed language to understand God. That language is the laws of nature. I study physics to learn part of the fundamental language of God. As a pastor, I want to teach people to hear from God in all his languages. In Brazil, God spoke to me in a new language: the language of hospitality and kindness. I will take this new perspective and language with me.
~ Jared Sittig
Communication in Brazil is completely different than communication in the United States, and that’s not just because they speak Portuguese. As an avid communicator it has been frustrating and challenging for me to be unable to fully express my thoughts and emotions to people in words, but Brazilian culture has taught me that words are just one small part of communication. Brazilians use their bodies more avidly to communicate meaning that in Brazil communication takes on a much broader definition that includes physical practices like dance and Capoeira. However, my greatest challenge has also become my greatest gift as Brazilian people have taught me that you don’t need to say something to convey something.
This trip to Brazil has really opened my eyes to all the poverty and injustice in the world. However, amidst the poverty, there is this strong sense of community that nothing can hinder. I have learned through my time here that less is truly more. Less wifi means more purposeful conversations with those around me. Less materialism means more community and authentic living. Less comfort means more gratitude for what I do have. Less reliability means more trusting in God. When I am lessened, God has the ability to do more.
I have fond memories of being always joyful and enthusiastic when I was younger. As I “matured”, this light in my heart began to flicker. On this trip to Brazil with the Honors program, God graciously and excitedly displayed His joy for me to see and soak in through His people in Brazil. Their smiles are contagious; their jokes are priceless, and their enthusiasm is inspirational. From our time with our host families, to our Portuguese professors, to our experiences in different Free Methodist churches, to our day of a cancelled flight and a stunning complimentary hotel stay, God has designed Brazil to showcase His joy in a way that I will never forget.
Upon a little reflection, I am surprised to realize that of all our experiences in Brazil, my favorite was probably that of simply holding conversations with strangers. There was something quietly heartwarming and curiously pleasant about reaching out or being reached out to in a strange place, and I can still recall the kind faces of several people – complete strangers – who, despite my stumbling efforts to breach the language barrier, left imprints in my memory and a little smile in my heart. For many of us, this trip has prompted an unprecedented boldness to try new things; for me, the blessing of reaching out is one ‘new thing’ I hope to bring back from Brazil.
~ Nathan Cannon
When I give something to someone I always feel like there has to be a reason. Whether they have done something to deserve a gift, there is a special occasion or anything else there always seems to be a reason. I never seem to give unconditionally. However, my time in Brazil has changed my view on giving. So many people here have given me things without me doing anything to deserve them. They give unconditionally. No moment captures the unconditional giving of this culture for me more than when I was given a Palmeiras flag after we watched them play. I did nothing to earn this gift. It was given out of a genuine kindness that I one day hope to possess. Brazil has taught me that I can give without a reason; that I can give unconditionally.