Volunteer in Mission to Brazil

20 April 2006

Love knows no bounds

As I was flying to Chicago to visit my family there before returning to continue volunteering in Brazil, I was reflecting on my experiences during the three months I’ve been in the U.S. waiting for a long-term visa. It’s very funny how there was so much waiting and then once the visa came through, boom! time to suddenly finish a seemingly endless list of things that needed to be done before I could go back, including flying to Miami to turn my passport into the Brazilian consulate to receive the visa.

On the flight to Miami, the flight attendants were less than uniformly cordial--seeming to give more attention to the passengers without brown skin or accents--and one incident disturbed me enough to carefully put together a speech in the “non-violent communication” style to communicate my discomfort to the flight attendant after the other passengers disembarked. Despite the negative experience in the morning and witnessing the same woman who had “helped” me at the Brazilian consulate be extremely rude to several of the people in front of me, I was really blessed on the flight back to Washington DC that afternoon. I was sitting across from a young Amish couple who was returning from Central America with the baby boy they’d just adopted. I’d seen the family in the airport lounge while we were waiting for the flight, and at that time was impressed with the care the young mother was showing the baby as she held him. When they sat across from me on the plane, I could see how cute and animated the baby was, and we traded funny faces for a while. The baby finally fell asleep on the mother’s lap, shortly followed by the mother nodding off. It was so precious to see the young father leaning over to carefully reposition the stuffed animal that had gotten a little too close to the baby’s mouth. I ended up talking to the couple briefly at the end of the flight, and they relayed some of the details of their recent adoption and that their family was coming to meet them and the baby at the airport. I exited the security area before the young couple did, and I could see their extended family waiting, with their video camera, in great anticipation of meeting their new family member. It struck me how profound love can be--that an extended family from a culture known for its shunning of modern ways is opening their hearts and taking in with such love a child that looks so different from them.

I would like to acknowledge and thank those who have offered me such wonderful hospitality during my seemingly endless wait for my visa: Jordan, Barbara, Shanta, Raj, Anand, Naveen, Madhvi, Barg, Magdalena, Susan, Kent, Annette, Dee, Charles and the others who generously offered to open their homes to me in Washington DC and North Carolina.

05 April 2006

Have you not seen? Have you not heard?
(Is 40:28-31)

Even though I don't have time to write my usual voluminous observations, I did need to give thanks that today, I received word that my visa application was approved for one year. That necessitates one more trip to the Brazilian Consulate in Miami, and then I hope to make it back to Belo Horizonte by the 21st of April or so. Receiving the news was such a relief that I immediately starting crying for joy. I have to thank God for working it all out (ironically, exactly three months from the day I applied), my supervisors in Brazil for hiring an immigration attorney and the others who were trying to assist me in tracking down my application.

The timing is excellent because my parents will be joining the United Methodist Church's Primetimers trip to Brazil at the end of this month to see my adopted country and the children's programs in three different cities.

One gratuitous observation, though--I noticed that I'm developing a very negative attitude toward churches whose congregations are not representative of their neighborhoods, not just in terms of race/ethnicity but also age & gender. For example, I visited a church on Sunday in Maryland that was probably 75% senior citizens. While I am glad to see anybody in church, I am surprised to find myself increasingly aggravated that congregations do not seem to be reaching the people in their neighborhoods and beyond. Perhaps they are focusing more on the "social club" aspects of being a church? How do you make your message and your mission similar enough to Jesus' original "movement" that you attract people from all walks of life like he did?