Somehow, when we think about mission trips, we tend to believe that we are traveling to another place to impact and shake that region, and while that is true, we always leave the one most changed. This has always been my experience with mission trips. I return home more joyful, passionate, changed, and filled with compassion.
I had come to BSSM school for many reasons: I wanted to grow in my prophetic gifting, I wanted more boldness and confidence, I wanted to grow more my identity in Christ, and I wanted the gift of words of knowledge. All year, I had learned so much, grown so much, and did so much, but I did not feel as though I had gotten the breakthrough that I had come for. I began to stress out; 8 months of school had already passed and I still didn’t get what I had moved across the country to get. I started feeling discouraged as the enemy kept whispering lies in my ear, saying it was my fault I wasn’t seeing growth or getting results. The pressure was on as time was running out – I would graduate in less than a month! I had to get my breakthrough but I could not get it in my own strength or timing.
Brazil was a new sort of adventure for me – although, the journey in getting there was nothing short of stressful and frustrating. What should have been a simple process of getting my American passport suddenly became a 3 month saga of required proof of citizenship, countless phone calls, documents lost in the mail, and driving across the U.S. during Christmas break to deliver credentials in person because the postal service kept losing my documents, etc.
Meanwhile, funds for my trip were virtually non-existent. We were saving money for BSSM 2nd year and couldn’t afford to pay almost 3k for a mission trip. On top of the passport drama, I was stressing out about finances, thinking it was either this mission trip, or second year. Brian and I put money towards the first financial deadline in faith that the rest would be provided. After weeks of praying and failed bake sales and fundraisers, I still stressed, but finally began to see money coming in for my trip. Friends and family donated – even the most unlikely pitched in to send me to South America. I was overwhelmed and thrilled to be on track financially, learning the valuable lesson that God is not an “either or God” but a “yes and amen God”. I knew He had called me to 2nd year, and I knew Brazil was on my heart, too – when you follow God’s leading, you do not need to make a choice of which to obey or how to limit Him – there is not an either or – His promises are yes and amen.
Through that lesson, I was also not only reminded that God is a good father and He loves to bless His children, but the revelation of Him being a great father finally went from mere head knowledge to real heart knowledge. I can feel that He’s a great father, and that His heart is for me.
Even until the hours leading up to my departure from Redding, the challenges continued. I was in a mad hurry to finish my homework, pack and get my last minute things together. As I went to print out my Brazilian visa, I realized they never sent me one. Instead I was issued an important notice as an Australian resident. What?!
At that moment, it had been 6 months since the Brazilian madness had begun. And I wasn’t sure if I could go or even wanted to go at that point. “Why has every inch of this journey been so difficult?!” I asked Brian in frustration. “Is a passport really that hard to issue? A visa can’t be that bad either! Why does this have to be so hard?”
Brian turned to me, “Nothing worth having is ever easy.”
I rolled my eyes, “Well, this had better be the best trip of my life because it’s been excruciating.” Little did I know, it would be. It was the trip that brought forth all of the breakthroughs I had been praying for for quite some time – most of which were the very reason I had come to school in the first place.
33 Bethelites arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil early on April 6th after nearly 20 hours of travel. Exhausted, hungry and sweaty we were glad to be there, but had not slept much in 2 days. After a long drive to Campinas, Brazil, we arrived at our hotel and had a team meeting that night. There, we met our host family and talked briefly about our next 2 weeks in Campinas, and our ministry opportunities about the Shine Conference our team would be leading the next morning. I suddenly felt put on the spot and was overwhelmed, felt inadequate, and terrified. I knew I would get out of my comfort-zone (on mission trips you always do), but I had no idea I would be thrown into something that I had never done before – leading a team on street evangelism in a foreign country…alone, with only a translator. That night, all my exhaustion, tension, fear, homesickness, and spiritual warfare in the atmosphere collided and I had a mini meltdown on Skype with Brian (when the Wi-Fi was functioning enough to get a call through.) “I can’t do this. I’m not ready for this. I don’t think I can hear God anymore and there’s no way I can be put on the spot like this.”
Brian, in his ever-enduring love and patience told me those were lies, and prayed right there and then for me.
The next day, we walked into a humble yet beautiful church with several hundred Brazilians packed inside. My Spanish is less than mediocre (and even after 12 days in Brazil, I can only speak 3 words in Portuguese.) Our trip leader led the conference and preached on evangelism, then our BSSM team split up, each coupled with a group of Brazilians. I found myself surrounded by 4 teenagers, only 1 of whom knew about a dozen words of English, and no translator in sight. We all stood awkwardly, using our hands in a vain attempt to somehow communicate. I tried to ask them to practice evangelizing to each other, but they were too shy, and said they couldn’t understand me. Inside my head, I was frantic. “See, I knew I couldn’t do this. Evangelism is not for me. I’m completely useless to the team!…and I have the nerve to call myself a Bethel student….” Unable to get anywhere with the kids, they started to encourage each other and I quietly excused myself, feeling terrible.
As I awkwardly made my way through the crowd, back toward my seat, I glimpsed a large man sitting at the sound booth, head resting on his desk, and lips moving slowly. I felt a tug in my heart to go speak to him, but struggled with my feelings of inadequacy. I took another step towards my seat, but paused. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me so I slowly approached him and tapped his shoulder. He looked up and gave me a big smile. “Hello, I’m Rachel,” he shook my hand but pointed to his ears and shook his head. My heart sank again – he spoke no English. Unsure of what to do next, I smiled and planned to head back towards my seat. He thrust his phone at me, Google-translate shining on the screen. I laughed inwardly, wondering how on earth this was going to work. I introduced myself in English and pushed the translate button. He handed his phone back, message gleaming. “Thank you for coming to me. This has been a difficult week and I am very sad. My heart is so sad, and nothing can make me happy. I was sitting here praying to Jesus to bring someone to me because I need encouragement – and here you are. Thank you! You are an answer to my prayer!” I swallowed the lump forming in throat. I had heard God. All of a sudden I got a download from heaven: words of encouragement and a few prophetic words. All of a sudden, I felt like he was burdened with a huge decision, was at a crossroads and he wasn’t sure which choice to make. I gave him a prophetic word along that vein. Then had, what I later realized was a word of knowledge. As he stared at the screen, his eyes got huge. He read and reread the message I had written him. His mouth fell open. His fingers flew over the keyboard as he furiously typed a message back to me: “I have been trying to decide whether to put my wife in college or not. She wants to go but we do not have the money. I am worried about this decision! Wow – you really hear God! You knew that about me! Thank you; thank you for telling me! This has made my day so much better, you are a wonderful encourager and you hear God so well!” He looked at me with tears streaming down his cheeks, “Thank you!” He said in English. I walked back to my seat, elated and dumbfounded. Wow, what a divine appointment. I really could hear God’s voice and not only did I exhibit boldness, but my prophetic words were on point, and I had finally received my gift of words of knowledge!
Dozens of testimonies were shared during the service and I believe there were a dozen people who came forward at the alter call to accept Christ.
The next day, we continued the conference at the same church; with several sessions and intermittent meal breaks, it was a 15-16 hour ministry day. The building was crammed full of 400+ Brazilians, ravenous for the presence of God. I have never seen or experienced such a deep, pure hunger for God. The building erupted with praise as part of our BSSM team joined the church’s worship team. Half the songs were sung in Portuguese and the rest in English. The presence of God fell and the air was literally charged with electric. It was incredible. Again, I believe there were about a dozen people who accepted Jesus as their savior after the service.
We created a fire tunnel and 400+ church members went through – several were so hungry for God, they went through multiple times! The service continued for several hours longer than normal because no one wanted to leave His heavy, sweet presence! I prayed for countless people and God touched each of them. I was amazed that while no one seemed to know English, my prophetic words touched them despite the language barrier.
The Holy Spirit transcends language and brings meaning to the heart.
My favorite testimony from this day was from one of the guys on our team. He was praying for a young woman of the church who did not know English at all. Regardless, he prayed for her in English because it was all he knew and invited the presence of God. He began to walk her through a meeting/encounter with Jesus, telling her God was giving her gifts; gifts He had given her but she had put them on the shelf. She was clearly moved despite not knowing English. After the service, the young woman ran up to him, with a translator in tow. She fervently thanked him for the word he had given her, telling him that she had understood every word of what he had said! What?!
Monday was a team work day at our host’s studio that had been affected by a storm, causing the roof to collapse and other damage to the building. Many of us spent hours pulling weeds from between the pavers in the courtyard, painting the inside and outside of the building, cleaning the bathrooms/main room, and hauling old roofing tiles to a dumpster across the street. Then, we packed several hundred goody bags for the impoverished children we would visit in the favelas.
The BSSM men continued to paint and clean while us women went back to our hotel, freshened up, and had a meeting with our host’s women’s ministry called PINK.
The next day, we went to the UNICAMP University to conduct street/campus evangelism. Many of us walked around campus, striking up conversations and inviting students to our event. Others painted prophetic pictures and handed them out, then we met back in the garden where we played guitars, sang, and shared testimonies. We saw several salvations and miracles here, too.
Another of my favorite testimonies happened on this campus. During the music, one of the guys on our team saw a young man sitting and watching us. He approached him and struck up a conversation. He came to discover that the young man had a broken arm in a sling. Our Norwegian evangelist prayed for the young man and his arm was miraculously healed! The young man pointed to his head, asking our teammate to pray for “his mind” because he was hearing voices and having dark thoughts. The voices stopped as our BSSM friend prayed and the young man admitted that because of past mistakes, he was carrying a knife in his backpack, ready at any moment to give up, slit his wrists and end his life! His depression lifted, he repented for his past sins, and accepted Jesus as his savior, right then and there!
That evening we drove to the favelas, an impoverished area of Brazil that the government does not care much about, and joined the local children as they practiced ju-jitsu at a church. The pastor hosts the children and another member of the church volunteers as the instructor at the ju-jitsu ministry at least once a week in an effort to keep the children off the streets and to keep them away from the favela’s gangs that will use them to transport/smuggle drugs. I also believe this was the evening we returned to our hotel and met with our hosts’ church leaders, honoring them and giving them prophetic words.
The following day we returned to the impoverished favelas and spent the day at the children’s school. We loved on them, sang some English songs, taught devotionals, made balloon animals, played dodge ball, taught them to make bracelets, did some face painting, and played twister. As they filed back to their respective classrooms, we handed out the goody-bags we had prepared for them ahead of time.
Thursday was a free day. We woke up early, loaded into our vans, and traveled to a beautiful mountainous resort some 3 hours away. There we split up: I joined a few of my friends on a ropes course, a ½ mile long zip-line, and my favorite – a trail ride on horseback – while some of the others went white water rafting and on a tractor ride. We arrived back to our hotel around midnight, exhausted and in need of a shower.
Friday morning we again loaded our vans, chatted with our driver, and traveled outside the city to an undisclosed “orphanage of sorts” where children who were previously sex trafficked were taken in to heal and get educated in a safe environment. We spent the day here too, pouring into them, singing English songs, teaching devotionals, making balloon animals, playing dodge ball, making bracelets with them, did some face painting, and handed out our pre-made goody-bags.
The following day was spent at our hotel in a conference room where we again joined the PINK ministry for their weekly meeting. Our team set up and offered prophetic painting booths, prophetic dancing, prayer, and prophetic singing. Then our lovely team leader, shared her incredible testimony, before we had an alter call. Several women (3-4) came forward and gave their lives to Jesus! The BSSM team became the ministry team and prayed for anyone who came forward.
On Sunday, it was planned for our team to go to a hippie fair where we could buy souvenirs and do some street ministry, but due to a pending storm, it was cancelled. Instead we congregated in the hotel’s conference room and had a team meeting and debrief, worshipping, sharing testimonies, and praying for one another.
Monday morning, we packed our suitcases, loaded into our respective vans before being dropped off and boarding a charter bus to drive back to the Sao Paulo airport. At our bus stop, 4 of us students said goodbye to our van driver, who had become our friend over the past 2 weeks. We thanked him for his help, encouraged him, prayed for his sore knee, and said goodbye. His eyes teared up, he hugged each of us, and told us it was his pleasure to be our driver. He was clearly impacted by our team and our friendship with him.
We boarded our plane for a 10-hour flight to Dallas, TX. then, on to Sacramento, CA. After nearly 27 hours of travel, we arrived back in Redding Tuesday evening, hot, exhausted, and jet-lagged. But before the team said their goodbyes and dispersed, our team leaders announced the good news – shortly after we had left our driver in Brazil, sweet Paulo called our host family, asked for a meeting with them, and promptly gave his life to Jesus.
I’m sorry I am so late in posting this, my summer has been out of control, but I just wanted to share and thank each and every person who sowed into this trip, financially and through prayer! It would not have been possible without you! I had a few rough days there and had asked several of you to pray; I could certainly feel your prayers all the way in South America. Thank you, thank you, for partnering with me in bringing the Gospel to Brazil – it was a trip I will never forget!
Each of my mission trips seems to get better and better – going from glory to glory! I cannot wait to see where God will take me this year or what adventures await me in BSSM 2nd year!