When we first arrived here, the first thing I noticed was the smell. Smoke, and the distinct aroma of raw sewer hung heavy in the air. Those smells seemed to go away as we drove through the city but in reality they are still there, we have just become accustomed to them and don’t notice them as much. In the days since we arrived here we have been exposed to many different environmental realities. The sight of favelas (shantytowns) both in the inner city and on the mountainsides. The streams and rivers flowing with dark grey water (raw sewage) that seem to be everywhere. The smell of good food from kitchens big and small mixed with body odor from people not being able to bathe for weeks or months at a time. And, the smell of strong coffee. Brazilians like coffee and they like it strong! Luckily our team likes it that way too.
We have also been exposed to a lot of beauty. The majestic mountain ranges that envelope the area. Riding in a vehicle in this part of the world is somewhat akin to being on a roller coaster, up down and all-around with lots of stops and starts. We have seen smiles on people’s faces who are living in the most desperate situations. We have seen the beauty of the stars at night when it is not rainy or overcast. We have stood in awe at the majestic beauty of a vividly painted sky (seemingly limitless variations of red, orange, dark blue, white, and grey) as the sun was setting over the filth and mutes tones of the shantytowns where thousands of people live in abject poverty every single day of their lives. Lots of contrasts, things that shouldn’t go to together but somehow seem to blend perfectly.
We have also seen Jesus here, in the face of a child who is playing and running on the dirt streets. We have seen Him shining through a family that made us Brazilian expresso in their modest home in the shantytown. We have seen Jesus’ presence in the tears of joy flowing down the face of someone who has just met Him. We have seen His joy and determination of the missionaries we are staying with that are constantly serving others. We have also noticed Him in ourselves as He gives us power to share the gospel.
Jesus is all around us and is always with us. He gave us that promise in verse 20 of the above text. He is available in every place and in every situation. He meets us when we go beyond our comfort zones and shows us sides of Himself in unexpected ways. The story is not over, for any of us. There are still many beautiful people to meet and numerous adventures to experience. We look forward to the rest of the journey.