Day 50: The End of the Journey

The plane began its descent on American soil, and shortly before 6am EST we were on the ground in Atlanta.

IMG_3133A new day, a new month, a new city…and a new perspective.

My ministry trip to Brasil is over, but life continues on. I could not just come back the same person that I was when I went there. But I’ll talk about that later.

I had to go through customs, and I anticipated that process to be quick and painless, based on my previous experiences (returning from the Philippines in 2005 and entering Brasil 7 weeks earlier). Sure enough, it didn’t take to long and I breezed right through…

Until I got to the part where they check for food products or soil that anyone might be bringing back.

IMG_3167When I filled out my customs form, I indicated that I was bringing back some fruit, but that wasn’t an issue. They did not seem to mind that I was bringing those back. But because I was bringing back a couple containers of sand (white sand from Treasure Island and red sand from Seminario Batista do Cariri) I had to declare that I was bringing back foreign soil, and that’s what slowed me down.

I was sent to a separate line where our luggage would be open and inspected and the people in front of me took awhile. However, once I finally got to the front, they quickly opened my suitcases, and found nothing suspicious.

They asked why I was there and I explained the sand that I brought back, and they said it was no problem and sent me right on through! Sigh. Oh well…I’m thankful I got my sand.

I like to collect small samples of dirt or sand from other countries. It’s an inexpensive souvenir that friends can bring back for me. But this was the first time I brought back any myself, and it was beautiful colored sand.

Finally through customs with only about a half hour to spare, I found my next gate. Expedia did a great job planning my flights both ways with minimal layover downtime, especially on the way back. Of course, I could have used some more time at Sao Paulo on my trip to Brasil, but God worked out those details and I didn’t miss my flight.

IMG_3169This last trip was a short one (about an hour-and-a-half) on a really nice jet. Every seat in the plane had its own TV! I have grown accustomed to that on the longer flights overseas, but not on these short jaunts across the country!

So on the way to Minneapolis I found some nice music and enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, I never got my free snack though! Because the flight was so short, by the time we reached cruising elevation, we only had about 40 minutes or less before we started to descend!

Because I sat near the back of the plane, and because they didn’t start handing out the peanuts and drinks right away, they only reached the passengers a couple seats ahead of me before they had to put everything away for landing. Oh man…that was kinda disappointing.

IMG_3189But hey, Delta has amazing customer service. I contacted Delta at a later time and kindly told them about the incident, and shortly thereafter they gave me 3,000 frequent flyer miles as reciprocation for what happened. Forget the peanuts and cranberry juice…I’ll take those 3,000 frequent flyer miles any day!

Minnesota looked quite different than it had seven weeks earlier from the air. No more flooded fields. Several of the fields were still barren, unable to produce a crop because of the heavy rains earlier in the summer. But many others were green with corn and soy beans and whatever else.

I touched down around 9am CST and not long after I was reunited with my family who had come to pick me up. A few hours later, I was back home in good ol’ Mason City, Iowa!

What an experience!

Without repeating a lot of what I already said in the past 49 posts, I will try to summarize the highlights of the trip.

IMG_9176IMG_9359First, I am so thankful to Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie for asking me to come down and spend the summer with them. It was not something I had ever considered doing, but God quickly made it clear that it was the right thing for me to do. God used them to teach me so much about missions and life and ministry in general, and they may never know the full impact they had on my life.

They treated me as family before I even arrived, and they included me in so many valuable activities and learning experiences, even in the mundane tasks of daily life. Daily life there is similar in some ways to my life here in the US, but in some ways it is so extremely different…a good different though.

Second, I cannot talk enough about the Semana de Musica Sacra. It was by far the best week of my entire year. I absolutely loved it, and it was a huge blessing to me.

IMG_0004Not only did I get to spend the whole week as the official photographer for the event, but I got to play my violin in one of the orchestras, and I watched as a group of 200 people with minimal musical experience put together a beautiful, God-glorifying concert in less than a week. It was unlike any musical event I’ve ever participated in, and I hope to go back for several more in the future.

What do you get when you combine 16 violins, 18 recorders, 19 guitars, 2 trumpets, 2 violas, 8 flutes, 1 cello, 1 string bass, 2 pianos, and 3 electric keyboards? A powerful orchestra that brought tears to my eyes.

I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

Third, as Danae mentioned in her final blog post about Brasil, I formed and strengthened many other relationships that I am so grateful for.

I met and worked alongside of several other great missionaries like the Reiner’s, the Atha’s, and the Wilson’s. I met and worked alongside an amazing musician in Olivia. I met Destiny and worked closely with her on the Aventura Brasil team for two weeks.

After knowing Danae for four years at college, we ministered together for several weeks and enjoyed many, many jokes and hysterical laughter, often at the expense of ourselves. Then there was Stephen, another friend from college whose dad has become a good friend of mine over the last few years. But after spending only a couple weeks as a roommate, orchestra member, and fellow traveler of Stephen’s, we learned that we have a lot in common.

IMG_0976IMG_0970Stephen and I would joke together and read each other’s minds and intentionally set each other up for some hilarious comment. Yes, we did ministry together, but we also spent a lot of time laughing together and giving other people reasons to laugh with us.

Then there was Neto and Joy, the soon-to-be-wed Brasilian couple that took me under their wings on multiple occasions, showing me around, feeding me new foods, telling me about the country, and also teaching me different things about ministry.

I served with them at the Semana de Musica Sacra and at Ilho de Tesouro, and a few months later I had the amazing privilege of photographing their wedding in New Hampshire at Searles Castle. It is fun to see how God causes the paths of certain people to cross during certain seasons and for certain reasons.

Fourth, I am thankful for all the people from Brasil who welcomed me to their country. Yeah, many of them looked at me and thought I was already a resident. But I was also welcomed as an American, and they just thought that was really neat. Having a camera helped too.

So many of my new friends still keep contact with me via email and Facebook, teaching me Portuguese, learning English from me, and asking me questions about the US or God and spiritual things. They are an extremely hospitable, loving people. If I have the opportunity to go back, it will definitely be because of the people.

Finally, the ministry opportunities God gave me were incredible. I visited over a dozen different churches, preached seven times, helped with VBS, counseled at camp on Treasure Island, helped teach American English, assisted with two youth activities, and played the violin, piano, and musical saw on several occasions. I even go to use my camera for ministry purposes on several occasions!

Someday, I would like to go back. I don’t know when or for how long, but I would love to return.

In 2016 I hope many more people will participate in Aventura Brasil because the experience and ministry is amazing.

Well, that’s the end. What more can I say? God is good, and He blessed me. Words cannot express how awesome it truly was.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me and those who also financially supported me! Your prayers were a huge ministry to me.

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