Wahoo! I am so excited to be able to update you all from Brazil! I’ve been waiting for a chance to write about my experience here in Brazil, and I’m so grateful that today is the day that I am posting.
As soon as we arrived in Sao Paulo, all of us were split up and placed in host homes. I am with Karen, (also known as “Jane,” “K-Jane” or “KJ”) and our host family has been extremely hospitable. We are with a wonderful family, and tomorrow (Wednesday) we all will switch to another host home until we fly out on Sunday to Curitiba. Although our Impact team stays in separate host homes, we all reunite in the mornings to do kids programming until around 5. For the past two days, we have served in a favela called “Villa Nova Esperanca.” Villa Nova Esperanca is a very poor community. If you look up with a favela in Brazil looks like, you will have a pretty accurate visual of where we have been working. It is difficult for me to walk through the village and to know that most of the people that I encounter will most likely spend the rest of their lives in this situation. It is especially hard for me to see children (all of whom are either barefoot or wear flip flops) live in such harsh conditions. During these past 2 days, one half of our team has worked on building a playground, and the other half worked with kids programming. I am on the kids programming team, and it’s been an exhausting, yet incredible experience. For me, today was especially special.
Right before lunch, I was playing with some children, and a girl named Leticia came up to me and asked how old I thought she was. Leticia is a pretty tall girl, so I guessed that she was 11, but she turns out to be 9. I didn’t think much of this question, but Leticia became very angry with me that I guessed her age wrong. To be honest, it was weird how upset she became. Sitting beside me were Rebecca, (one of our translators), Adam, Miriam, Nathan, Lauren, James, Kelsey, and Katie. They all noticed her behavior once she began cursing at both Miriam and me. Leticia had anger built up inside of her, and I wanted to know why she was so upset. I asked her why she was cursing at us. Instead of disciplining Leticia for the way she spoke to Miriam and me, I decided that I wanted to get to know her story.
I started by asking her (with the help of Rebecca) why she thought it was necessary to curse when she was angry. She responded by saying that she started cursing in 2011 when her grandmother unexpectedly passed away. Leticia witnessed her grandmother die, which was a scarring experience for her. In the same week, 2 of her friends died, but she did not go into much detail about them. She mainly focused on her grandmother. She continued by saying that she was the oldest of five siblings, and that she lived with her single mother. Her father left them all. I could tell by the look in her eyes that Leticia carried a lot of pain with her. Her eyes began to tear up the more she talked about her life in the favela, and she asked Rebecca to pray specifically for her grandmother. Because Leticia’s grandmother had already passed away, there was not much that Rebecca could pray for, but her prayer still comforted Leticia. She prayed for Leticia’s salvation, her family’s salvation, and for her grandmother. We laid hands on Leticia as this happened, and when we were finished praying, Leticia looked up at us and started to cry. Her entire demeanor changed, and she began opening up little by little.
As time went on, The Gospel was explained to Leticia, and she decided that she wanted to ask the Lord to be her Savior. Being able to witness this was a HUGE moment for me. As Rebecca and Leticia were praying together, I became emotional. I did not think of Leticia as a human, but rather an unsaved soul being transformed and saved by God’s grace. I was so happy that Leticia accepted the Lord as her Savior, but things began to change once she was finished praying. Leticia began to weep even harder, and she told us that there was someone inside of her who did not want Jesus there. She kept pointing to her stomach, and she articulated to Rebecca that there was a demon living there whom constantly troubled her. She began to shake as she told us stories about this demon. One time when she was alone, the demon kept telling Leticia that she was going to die. She tried to get it to stop, but it wouldn’t. She felt trapped by it. So when Leticia accepted the Lord into her heart, she immediately felt something resisting Him.
To be honest, I am not sure if there is a demon living inside of Leticia. What I do know is that there is definitely spiritual warfare occuring inside of her heart. Although I find comfort in knowing that our God is fighting for Leticia, it troubles me to know that a girl at such a young age is struggling like she is. Leticia asked us to pray for her one last time before lunch, and she wanted us to specifically pray that The Lord would give her joy. She said that whatever was inside of her sucked all of the joy from her, and she just wanted to be happy. When she asked for this, I strongly felt God’s presence, and this is why. I, too, have been praying for the Lord to give me joy for about 2 months now, but especially right before Brazil. I have realized that I need the Lord at all times, especially in the midst of hard situations in my life. Every day I pray for the Lord to give me joy, because I know that I cannot be truly satisfied without Him. So when Leticia was longing for joy, I felt like I could relate to her even though our stories are completely different. With that being said, I laid hands on Leticia as we prayed for her. Afterwards, James, Miriam, Nathan, Lauren, Adam, Katie, Kelsey, and I promised her that we would keep her in our prayers even when we are back in the states. We took a picture with her (as shown below) that I will keep in my journal so that I can constantly be praying for her. I encourage you to do the same.
I am so thankful that I had the blessing of talking to this girl. Although we live thousands of miles away, I will continue to pray for her because I strongly believe in the power of prayer. I know that the God that created me also created Leticia, and He will always love her unconditionally. He is with her even in the midst of her troubles, and I know that He will always walk alongside her.