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I’m a 20-year-old Brazilian girl who has always lived in Rio de Janeiro City. I work as a teacher and am also a college student, planning to major in business administration and accounting. And I go to an Evangelical Free Church in my neighborhood of Recreio dos Bandeirantes.
Haiti first caught my attention in January 2010 when the fatal earthquake struck. Sometime later, Pastor Steve Spellman* visited the church and shared with us what he had encountered on his visit there. Every picture and/or video shown was like a wake-up call. “Haiti is beauty in the midst of chaos,” Pastor Steve said. And that was all it took. The same passion for the Haitian people that had already conquered Pastor Steve’s heart seemed to have conquered mine too.
I don’t quite understand what happened in that moment. I guess my emotions just flowed. The Holy Spirit worked within my heart and mind, and I simply decided to go to Haiti.
I had truly heard the Lord calling me; however, as the actual boarding day got closer and the idea of the trip really hit me, I struggled against the Lord’s will. I was afraid of my own reaction to what I would experience in Haiti.
Sure enough: I cannot deny that when I first landed—10 months after hearing Pastor Steve—I had intense feelings of anger, compassion and indignation.
As I spent time in Haiti, though, I also felt empathy going deeply through my bones. And hope. I don’t know how, but hope could be seen there. I believe that the Holy Spirit worked within my heart and used that to remind me that, despite the devastating disasters we encounter throughout our lives, the Lord is and will always be all-powerful. Where there is life, there is hope, and Haiti shows that even amid the worst devastation, there is always hope.
Believe me or not, I also saw joy in Haiti. Haitians are just so welcoming and joyful; their smiles are incredibly contagious. They taught me that true joy can always be present in our hearts despite the circumstances, because Jesus is our true source of life and joy.
During our time in Haiti, we helped pour a slab floor (by hand) at a school for children in the community; organized backyard clubs at two different orphanages; and worked with teen girls still struggling with oppressive fears even two years after the earthquake.
We also spent two afternoons just walking the community—listening, praying and often times crying as we listened to the life stories.
I did not expect that now, almost a year later, I would love and miss Haiti so much.
I remember when we were driving through Port-au-Prince, heading out to the airport. I was looking at everything and everyone through the car window and felt extremely sad. I was leaving, but the people would remain there, suffering. And I hadn’t changed their reality.
I had spent most of my stay in Haiti wishing to return to Brazil. Yet, at that moment, I found myself wanting to stay. I wanted to be part of the transformation. I wanted to be part of this breathtaking plan (and future) that the Lord has for this nation.
Even my career path has changed due to what I’ve encountered in this trip. Now, I wish to work in the administration area of international, nongovernmental organizations, so that I may become part of a “greater plan” by trying to make a difference in the lives of the ones in need—both here in Brazil and in other countries. The Lord longs to work through us. He wishes us to reside as miracles in the providence of other miracles.
ReachGlobal/TouchGlobal and its partners, as well as other nongovernmental organizations’ programs, are now working toward the creation of a self-sustaining Haiti and, fortunately, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing evidences of that.
*Steve Spellman spent 20 years with ReachGlobal in Brazil and currently is part of the ReachGlobal team in Haiti. Since first visiting in the weeks following the January 2010 earthquake, he travels there every six weeks. Bianca came to Christ in one of the churches planted through ReachGlobal in the city of Rio de Janeiro. ReachGlobal continues to work closely with a number of partners in Haiti, together with partners coming to Haiti from countries such as Brazil, Columbia, Congo and the Czech Republic.
Bianca Brandão is a member of the Evangelical Free Church Community of Recreio dos Bandeirantes. Prior to her September 2011 trip to Haiti, she had never before been on a mission trip. She has since served as a translator on two other mission trips to the interior of Brazil, working alongside American short-term teams.