So ever since we returned from Brazil, I am suffering with what I call "Brazil Brain"...which basically means I THINK ABOUT BRAZIL ALL THE TIME. All throughout the day, something or someone will remind me of my time there.
When I wake up in the mornings now and walk outside, I recall walking the grounds around the church where we stayed every morning. Just me, my plastic cup of strong Brazilian coffee, my Bible and my thoughts. I spent hours just sitting on the steps of the gorgeous church (the oldest UMC in Belo Horizonte) reading my Bible like never before and talking to God. Without fail, no matter what time we got in the night before, my internal clock was always set to wake up at 6:30am...well before the 8am appointed breakfast time. So, I would quietly roll off my egyptian mummy sleeping contraption, grab my "girly" stuff to attempt to look slightly less freakish to my fellow missionaries (ie: rescue hair from the Einstein syndrome I fought the entire time I was there!), and pad down the hall - clothes in one hand, toothbrush in the other. I miraculously got my morning "getting ready" routine down to about 20 minutes - so I would have all this time before finally getting to eat breakfast. I know now that God woke me up in that early hour so that I would be focused on him - from morning to night - and so He could help prepare me for the day. I pray that I can continue these early morning devotions being back in the states and avoid the traps of facebook updating, emailing checking and tv watching that I so easily fall into.
It's amazing how just 10 short days can change your life. How quickly they pass - but how lasting the memories, lessons and impressions are. Some of y'all know the story of how I got to go on this Brazil trip - but for those who do not, here is the "quick" version. Wayyy back in Fall 2008, my pastor (and my boss) started asking me to run "blurbs" in our church newsletter and Sunday bulletins about The River UMC sending a team down to Brazil in March 2009. As I wrote the blurbs, I remember feeling a tug on my heart & I recall thinking "what if"..."what if" I were to go? But I quickly would dismiss it...too much going on, Matt wouldn't be able to go with me, my 4 or 5 hospital visits and couple of surgeries in 2008, and then the biggie: I've never been on a mission trip - EVER - of any kind! There were a lot of seemingly good reasons not to go.
Then one day I spoke with my pastor's wife (and my good friend) about going - and she really felt that I was supposed to go & at that moment, I felt it, too. I got off the phone with her and I was so excited - I was going to Brazil!!!! Yet, no less than 1 week later, I landed yet again in the hospital overnight - this time for a little internal bleeding thanks to a ruptured cyst. So Brazil was off again. How could I go tromping down to a foreign country when I could not even keep myself healthy in the good ole US?
A month or so passed & I started helping the Brazil team & my pastor get organized - setting up donation accounts, etc. Then, there was the call...2 people had dropped out of the trip and one of the spots was mine, if I wanted it. Whoa. Talk about your heart stopping. This was Tues, Feb. 3rd - departure for Brazil was just over 6 weeks away. All of the typical logistic type questions ran through my head, how quickly could I get my passport expedited (of course, I have had only about 5 1/2 years to get my name changed on my passport... nice, Meagan - way to be proactive), what about shots/visas/etc, was it safe, would I get sick? etc??
And then I stopped - if God had called me to the trip - surely He would help with all of those details. The big question loomed..."Was I ready to obey Him and follow Him and trust Him with all my heart and soul?" "Was I ready to hand over control to Him for everything and be dependent only on Him?" I was a little less sure of that. I am a major control freak - I like to be in the driver's seat as much as possible, and God and I battle this out all the time. Mostly with Him sending constant reminders that only He has the 'key' map and directions for my life. But thanks to some soul-searching, a supportive husband and a well-timed email (ask me about the email sometime..it's a cool story!!!), I called up my boss at 10:30pm, amazingly he answered and in a somewhat shaky voice that belied the confidence I was attempting to exude, I managed to exclaim, "Count me in!".
So the countdown began - passports were expedited and somehow returned in less than a week, visas were applied for and received in perfect timing, letters were sent out to friends & family and prayers and donations began to flow in. Our team met and continued with our preparations/drama practices/mini-Portugese lessons/lots of prayer.
Looking back and seeing how everything just fell into place was nothing short of amazing - think of one of those domino tower things you would build when you were a kid - I don't know the exact name of it - but you would line them all up in the kitchen/playroom or other, in some crazy design, and then "click", you would knock over just the first one to start the cascade of falling dominoes all the way down the line. All it took was for one little domino to be set up just a tad off-kilter (usually these were the ones set up by your annoying siblings who obviously didn't understand the intricacies of playing with dominoes - no mind that you had no idea to play a real game of dominoes and he did - but I digress) - so anyways, just one is a centimeter off and the whole cascade effect was ruined. Well, me saying "yes" to this trip was like tipping over that first domino - and then God just lined the rest of them up perfectly...click, click, click, click. One by one, each obstacle was overcome - even as the dominoes went around and around in crazy circles. God, it was beautiful!!!
So people have asked me "So, how was Brazil?". I'm not sure I even have the words. The idea for this original post was to write a summary for of the people who prayerfully or financially supported me. And as I sit here, I am not able to do that. What I can say is this...I saw things I will never forget for the rest of my life. I met the most warm and compassionate humans ever and had the privilege of working along side them every day. I was challenged every single minute, emotionally, physically and spiritually - but each day God would meet me where I needed to be met. He pulled me through. I experienced and did things I never dreamed I would be capable of. My team prayerfully touched many lives in short time we spent down there. People heard the story of Jesus for the first time. Some came to know what a relationship with God was all about. Children who never had a toy to play with now clutch colorful Beanie Babies or hacky sacks. Abused children at orphanages were given a couple of hour respite from their "regular" lives to play, laugh, scream with glee as they ran around with our team members - almost like they didn't have a care in the world. Nor did we at that moment. It was just about them.
Right now, there is a bald little girl - precious in every way but her body ravaged by the vicious chemo treatments- brushing the silky hair of her brand-new Barbie doll - all dressed in pink because that is her favorite color. And she is remembering. Just as I am. Remembering the crazy Americans who wore Jesus Superhero shirts :).
Here are just a few pics, however, there were over 2,000 pictures taken - so obviously they aren't all here! I also encourage you to logon to http://www.theriverumc.com/ and click on "Sunday Sermons Online" and then click on "March 22nd- Brazil testimonies". There you will hear 3 testimonies from the missionaries, including mine. You can also go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLKX0tLoLJw to view a short video of the trip.
Thank you to everyone who said a prayer for me, for our team, for the Brazilians - your prayer support carried us through. Thank you also for those who financially supported us so we could have our "feet on the ground" in Brazil. This trip has transformed me - and the same Meagan who left on March the 12th is not the same Meagan who returned just a short time later on the 21st. My life has forever been touched by this experience and faithfully I will carry with me the sweet memories for the rest of my life. And prayerfully, I will continue to be challenged as I live my life as a Christian here - and that my relationship with God will grow and deepen as I come to know more of Him.