Today, I want to tell you about one of the most wonderful weeks of my life; but first, you’ll need a little background. As a child, I grew up a missionary kid (MK) in the country of Brazil. If this sounds awesome to you, congratulations. You are correct; it was. Nonetheless, my family and I moved back to America when I was in the eighth grade, right in the middle of Justin Beiber’s heyday. As you might imagine, it was a really tough transition and I’ve never been the same. To this day, I struggle fitting in with American culture. Consequently, I jump at any opportunity to visit Brazil and did just that last November. I was thrilled to help lead a camp for some of the MKs currently residing in Brazil, and it was an absolute blast. Camp was in the city of Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, which is a beautiful island off the southeastern coast. It was fun, exciting, and nostalgic for me because I remember participating in the very same camp over eight years ago. I led camp for the teenagers, along with some help from a few college students who were short term missionaries. In the morning we had Bible lessons, activities, and crafts, and in the afternoon we went swimming, went to the beach, or played games outside. Since November is summertime in Brazil, we spent a lot of time outdoors at the beach and at the pool. During the Bible lessons, I created some challenges for the kids where they could win prizes from a snack box, and let me tell you – they were very competitive! One of my favorite things about the trip was bringing them American gifts and snacks that they missed. Some of the most requested items were Snickers candy bars, Cheeze-Its, Goldfish, fruit snacks, Kit Kats, Reeses, and Rice Krispy Treats. It’s amazing how simple things that Americans often take for granted bring so much joy to MKs.
One of the hardest things about being a missionary kid is the tremendous amount of responsibility you are faced with at very early age. Being constantly concerned about safety, not attracting too much attention as a foreigner (even though you may not feel like a foreigner because of how well you’ve adjusted), and experiencing firsthand the kind of sacrifice that Jesus asks of us to “go and make disciples of all nations” are just a few of the challenges missionary kids face. Having a week of relaxation at camp where you get to be a kid again and also speak English is really important to MKs. Our main goal was to encourage and bless them, and I think we succeeded. They had a whole lot of fun and went home encouraged and refreshed. Their joyful attitudes were convicting and yet encouraging to me, and I’m confident that I learned more from them than they did from me! I was reminded once again how blessed I am, not only to live in a country like America, but to have been an MK in Brazil. I really miss living in Brazil, and so it was absolutely wonderful for me to return and serve.
After the first week, my friends showed me around Florianópolis. Since the city is on an island, I got to participate in typical beach culture activities. I went sand boarding for the first time (essentially snowboarding down a sand dune bigger than a two-story house), which was totally awesome but terrifying. And you can bet your life that I spent many, many hours at the beach swimming, riding the waves, and hanging out with friends. Also, I now have a great, albeit humiliating, story about falling flat on my face right in front a super attractive Brazilian lifeguard. Then, I played this game called how-much-seafood-is-it-humanly-possible-to-eat-before-I-have-to-leave. (Side note: I think I won.) Although I didn’t get to hike through the jungle-covered mountains, I did get a lot of good pictures of monkeys and sea turtles. There is an incredible wildlife organization in Florianópolis called Projeto Tamar that helps protect endangered sea turtles, and visiting it was possibly one of the neatest things I have ever experienced.
I know that traveling is hard as a college student because, hello, college students usually don’t have an overabundance of cash. But really, if you get a chance, step outside your comfort zone. Go somewhere new. Experience different cultures. Take lots of photos. There is no better time to explore the world than right now, because the quantity and quality of responsibility usually grows exponentially with age. I hope you take advantage of opportunities to see the world through a new cultural lens. I promise you will be a better person for it, and you’ll have those memories for the rest of your life.
Written by Carilee
Photo credits: Carilee Fore