An update from the 2017 Brazil Team, Written by Scott Claybrook of LegacyPoint Church
As I sit here, Atlanta-bound on Delta flight DL60, it’s 10:00 p.m. on the last day of our trip. My eyes are heavy, but my heart is full. The back of my eyelids have become the perfect projector screen of memories from the week. As I look back, I cannot help but want to shout, “What a God we serve and what a people He has created in Brazil!” This people who feels deeply, loves passionately, serves faithfully, and devotes themselves wholeheartedly. We saw these amazing qualities put to beauty and destruction as some gave themselves to God and others to the kingdom of darkness. Yet, amidst it all, one thing is clear: Brazil is ripe for the Gospel of Jesus to flourish.
There is an openness to the depths of the love found in the Gospel resident within the people of Brazil. In a culture where warmth and demonstration of affection runs deep, we experienced a people who long for connection. This was evident from the wealthy to the streets of Crackland, the brothers and sisters at Igreja do Redentor to the children at Casa da Esperança (House of Hope) in Cidade de Deus (City of God).
Even in our departing, each of our brothers and sisters in Christ embraced us – showering hugs, words of lavish love, and a memorable farewell: saudade (sow-ohh-dod-gee). For me, this Portuguese word and its meaning sum up this trip, this country, and the heart of Jesus.
We do not have a word like it in English, and its meaning is compelling. In essence, it means all of the following things all compacted into one word: “I love you,” “I’m sad to see you go,” “I long to be with you again,” and “I am homesick until you return.”
As I look back on the trip, saudade is the perfect summary.
Jesus made it plain, “As I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples” (John 13:34b). The love demonstrated to us and amidst the family of God in Rio was greatly impactful. So impactful, in fact, that it clearly overflowed as we labored as a team alongside Eric and Suzana Papp, Jessica Fleshman, and many Brazilians such as Douglas, Joao, and Patrice. The unity and deep love for one another was tangible to the children as we served at Casa da Esperança in the City of God. They saw a loving group of Christians – imperfect yet running after Jesus, together. As we walked into the communidade, the children literally flocked out of their pallet shanties to join us. Paired with the joint effort of some of the neighbors who were Christians living in the City of God, Jesus’ love was manifested mightily.
The love Jesus modeled in His John 13 command is passionately expressed by the Papp’s and Jessica through consistent sacrifice. The context of Jesus’ commanded love was amidst His impending betrayal. The context of the Casa da Esperanca is of a similar hardship. Parentless children, a community governed by the traficantes (drug traffickers), hyper-sexuality, and terrible living conditions – love in this place must come from above and is all-together sacrificial.
As a result, there is a sadness in our leaving for two main reasons. The first is the sadness in leaving to return to comfort when Bruna, Paul Hector, and the other 100+ children we served in VBS remain. Sadness from the precious faces and hearts that are left to sort through the pain of economic instability and crime. Deep sorrow that comes from simply reflecting on the countless lost souls still roaming without an eternal dwelling through faith in Jesus.
Secondly, I feel the sadness of leaving our newfound family and long-time friends to tend to such a harvest where laborers are few (Matt. 9:37-38). It is incredibly saddening to leave Paulinho and his team at “Hug Therapy” (Terapia do Abraco) with all of Crackland mouthing with emaciated faces and dry lips, “Help me.” Substance and sexual abuse flow bountifully while spiritual starvation runs rampant. It is a place reminiscent of the scene in Nineveh where a people does not know their right hand from their left (Jonah 4:11).
It is in this great environment of struggle that saudade continues its meaning. “I long to be with you again,” is undoubtedly the reciprocated heart’s cry of our team of 14 and each Brazilian we labored alongside. We left our precious friends only 3 hours ago and yet I already have the desire to return to mutually refresh one another with our individual spiritual gifts as we did all week long (Romans 1:8-12).
The short time we had with ones like Pastor Rodrigo in Itaboraí and our various translators throughout the trip from Igreja do Redentor makes me yearn for the time we will see each other again.
I long to see each work and ministry we participated with and the fruit that the Great Gardner produces through them by the Spirit as they abide in Jesus, the True Vine (John 15:1-5).
The eternal fruit of each believer we encountered was made very real this morning as we finished our trip worshipping with Union Church. An English speaking church over 100 years old, Union is comprised of many nations from around the world including Nigeria, the Philippines, Belgium, India, Brazil, and America to name a few. We worshiped together and as we left, many of them said this phrase or some variation: “This isn’t goodbye but rather see you in glory, where we will worship together one day for eternity.”
Amidst this farewell wish, saudade yet again rang true as homesickness arose in my heart. A homesickness for the final dwelling place of the saint’s – our True Home yet to be realized. My heart eagerly anticipates this home where God dwells amidst His blood-bought multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev 7:9-12).
So, until this day, I say “saudade” to Brazil with love, sadness, longing and homesickness in my heart.