It was a few days before the New Year and I ventured approximately 1,200 kilometers down highway BR 101 from Santos to Porto Alegre. Upon arrival, I quickly got to work setting up everything in our rental house located in the south zone of the city and attempting to unpack our 13 plus suitcases encompassing all our belongings. Carol and the kids would arrive approximately 8 days later and I wanted to have everything ready for their arrival. We were thankful that the owners of our rental home left a significant amount of furniture in the home. However, there was still plenty to purchase including all kitchen appliances. Therefore, in the days following I ran a lot of errands; everything from switiching the utilites into our name, purchasing a local phone plan, discussing job opportunites, and cleaning the house that had not been lived in for at least 6 months, not to mention - finding a way to get rid of that line of ants in the house, and so on.
During this time, almost everyone I spoke to was extremely kind and helpful. Generally speaking, most would ask me where I am from (and I am thankful my portuguese is to the point that I can not only understand them but thoughtfully respond in conversation). I would indicate that I am American, but what came after is what caught me a little by surprise. The following question went something like this:
"So many people here would love to move to your country and you just moved your family here? So, why exactly did you move to Porto Alegre, Brazil?"
The reality is -> this is not my first time to live in Brazil or Porto Alegre. (We lived here from 2007 to 2010.) We truly love the city. We enjoy the local food. The weather and its four seasons including the beautiful trees with green foliage lining the streets (there is a street in Porto Alegre that was voted the most beautiful in the world in 2015, you can see here). We enjoy the kindness of its people. We even enjoy the rain (after living in the desert in Arizona during the last 3 years).
The reason we are here? We want to be a blessing to this city. We want to work and play in this city. We want to show people from afar (via pictures and story) the the good the city has to offer. We want our kids to enjoy it. Yes, we are missionaries and we know that the best way to start to be a blessing inside the city is to embrace it and be a part of it. We do not want to complain about the negatives but lift up the positives.
The reality is there are many that have called this city of 1.5 million their home for their entire life and are scared of the violence and political uncertainity as well as the econonic crisis here. However, we do not want to complain about the negatives but lift up the positives. We know that God has called us here to be a source of light in the city and we know that there churches and others doing good in the city and we are not alone in this cause. However, Porto Alegre continues to rank as the capital city in Brazil (there are 26 states) with the least amount of evangelical Christians (just 11% of the population) according to a recent survey in the national magazine Abril. In addition, it is at the top of the list in terms of most people frequenting worship houses of the Umbanda and Candomblé religions (African religons with an influence into witchcraft).
The reason we are here? Well, it should be the same reason why you are living in the spot God has called you. To live life and serve Jesus. To love and serve everyone you come contact with // with absolute joy. To make your days count and to count your days.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12: 9-13