11) TESTIMONY TIME


Okay so…I love Brazil.

Every single second of my time here so far has been unbelievably precious. Brazilian people are the biggest sweethearts and so full of love, Brazilian food is delicious and Brazil is so beautiful, but really, really hot. My timetable has been finalised and I never work in the mornings which is A M A Z I N G! My schedule is pretty full and intense but I am so excited to properly get started in all the various projects.

Since I arrived here, I’ve been asked several times by Brazilians why on earth I have come the whole way to Brazil and initially my answer was “I’m here as part of university degree because I study languages which means I have to spend a year living abroad to improve my language abilities”. However, on day one, I was challenged by Verna when I gave that answer to a man at the fruit market, because she asked if that was really the only reason I had decided to come the whole way to Brazil as a missionary. I think the reason that that was my answer is because I am actually quite baffled myself as to how I ended up here and haven’t properly taken the time to process and look back on this crazy journey that God has taken me on these last few years. So, with that in mind, these last few weeks especially I have been doing lots of thinking and bible reading and praying to figure out my story and so I thought I’d share…

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I grew up surrounded by the most wonderful Christian family and so going to church was always part of our weekly routine. I always heard people talking about God and never felt any pressure whatsoever by my family to believe in anything. Obviously, we went to church, but I was never told I HAD to believe in God. My beliefs were exactly that, mine. When I was eight years old, a visiting minister was giving the children’s story and was talking about Jesus and how he was ‘knocking the door of our hearts’ and that all we had to do was answer the door and let him in. In that moment, as a little 8-year-old girl, I felt like I understood everything and I knew in that moment that I wanted to let Jesus into my heart and accept him as my Lord and Saviour.

However, in reality, nothing really changed. I still went to church, was still surrounded by my Christian family and lived life in pretty much the same way. It was only when I was fourteen years old and went to Autumn Soul, which is a weekend that is run by the Irish Methodist Youth and Children’s Department, that I fell in love with Jesus and truly understood what it meant to be a Christian. It’s not just a label, or a ticket into heaven, it is a real relationship with a heavenly father. This mentality changed everything.

Ever since I was a child, all I ever wanted to do was study music and become a music teacher so that I could inspire children in exactly the same way as I was inspired by the many music teachers I have had in my life. I am so aware that music is a gift that I have been given, mostly because I am the only person in my entire family that plays any musical instruments (apart from Josh who gave up on drums and trombone years back). I picked my A-level subjects based on the fact that I didn’t need any specific subjects to study music, other than music of course, and so I studied Music, French, Spanish and ICT. When I was seventeen years old, after completing another round of work experience in music teaching, I all of a sudden had a complete change of heart and started to think that music at university perhaps wasn’t for me. One night, when I was lying in bed I was made so aware by God that my music was a way for me to bring people closer to Him, but that it wasn’t what I was meant to study at university.

So, at that point I went into a major panic because I was in Lower Sixth with absolutely NO IDEA what I wanted to do in the future. I went through a phase when I wanted to do Computing and ICT at university (goodness knows why) but after being told by a lecturer at Queen’s that he didn’t think I would be clever enough to do the course (because I studied languages) that plan swiftly went out the window. Straight after this incident, I went to the modern languages talk and was completely sold and seriously started to consider doing languages at university for the first time.

A couple of months previous to all of this, I was playing flute as part of a Methodist youth band at a mission event called Global Vision, and the one and only Jonny Best was speaking about how he had spent a period of time volunteering in Argentina and I honestly think that was the first time I had ever consciously thought about Latin America. From that moment on, I couldn’t stop thinking about the continent. I was constantly trying to find out more information and spent time reading news stories about the various countries, stories of corruption, trafficking, abuse, but also tales of communities coming together and God working in the midst of despair. The 26th February 2014, four years ago, was the day that I knew and totally understood that I was being called to Latin America. I knew that I was meant to go, but didn’t know which country, for how long, or what for.

I think from that moment on, my love of languages really started to soar and it was where I was putting all my focus at school, particularly with regards to Spanish. When I finally decided to apply for languages, I applied for Spanish, Spanish and French, Spanish and Portuguese and Spanish and Business. I applied for Spanish and Portuguese on a complete whim. I have absolutely no reason for picking Portuguese, other than to fill a space on my UCAS application and the fact that I knew it was spoken in Brazil which is obviously a Latin American country.

Last week, three years back, I went to the QUB modern languages offer holder day and there I spoke to some current students about studying languages at Queen’s. I ended up chatting to one of my now good friends on that day as she studied Spanish and Portuguese and was in second year. She told me how much she loved her degree and basically convinced me to do Portuguese. Now, in actual fact, Leanne hated Portuguese. However, for some unknown reason, on that day, she decided to tell me it was great. She still apologises to me to this day for convincing me to do Portuguese and putting me through the trauma, but in actual fact, if she hadn’t said how much she loved her degree that day, I probably wouldn’t be here in Brazil right now.

Then as you all know, the summer before I started university, I ended up getting my first experience of Latin America when I went to Guatemala with Latin Link with their “Step” program. From the moment I stepped foot in the country, I fell in love with the people, the culture, the food and their passion for Jesus. My eyes were opened to the struggles of the Latin American people, with corruption, homelessness, child abuse, human trafficking and drug problems being very prominent issues that I began to feel really passionate about. I knew after my time in Guatemala that that wasn’t going to be my only experience in Latin America, and whilst I was devastated when leaving, I was also saying “be back soon” to the beautiful continent I had fallen in love with.

In the November after my trip to Guatemala, I went to the Latin Link debrief conference. When I was there I went to a talk about their “Stride” placements, and it was at that talk that I started to seriously consider going to Brazil. When I was in Guatemala, there was a Brazilian man called Wilson who worked a lot with our team and he kept telling me I had to go to Brazil because it is such an amazing place and I just laughed it off, but I think it planted a seed. After the conference, I began to read about some current and ex-Latin Link members’ projects in Brazil working with street children and also young people that had been victims of trafficking and I just sat and cried. I knew I was being called to Brazil, so I applied, was accepted, and now I am here.

So, I think that is basically my journey up until this point. What I have been learning these last few years is how FAITHFUL God really is in guiding my steps. I can make plans for my life, but what he has in store is immeasurably better. People keep asking me what I’m going to do with my degree when I graduate and I always give the same answer, ‘I honestly have absolutely no idea, but God does, and I’m content with that knowledge’.

Since I was in Guatemala, I have constantly been praying “break my heart for what breaks yours” and it’s fair to say that here in Brazil my heart is breaking on a daily basis. I am completely aware that me being here isn’t going to eliminate the issues that exist in Brazil, however if I can make a difference in the life of one person, then it will be completely worth my while.

God is slowly changing my own heart and he is teaching me who I am in Him – a daughter of the King. 

{God has been faithful, He will be again. His loving compassion, it knows no end. All I have need of, His hand will provide. He's always been faithful to me}

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