Global Justice Volunteer Returns from Brazil
Emily Evertt, 23, of Houston, Texas, was a Global Justice Volunteer to São Bernardo, Brazil, 30 minutes outside São Paulo, last summer. She worked with the Projeto Meninos/Meninas de Rua in Sao Bernardo do Campo. A 2005 graduate of Texas Woman's University, Ms. Everett is living and working in Houston, where she is a member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church. She works with an after-school program for sixth graders at a middle school. She shares her experience. United Methodist Women funds Global Justice Volunteers through its Mission Giving. These volunteers are young who serve outside the United States for short-term work with ministries of justice through the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
by EMILY EVERETT
When I signed up to be a Global Justice Volunteer, I had no idea what to expect. When I received the letter telling me I would work with street kids in Brazil for two months, my first thoughts were that I had long worked with kids and youth. I could do this assignment.
The day I arrived in Brazil, I began to wonder. What were people saying about me? Why were they laughing? Now home, I think, when's the next flight back?
In Brazil, I learned so much about myself, God, God's love for us, and the way God expects us to love other people. I know I will continue processing my experience and will continue asking hard questions.
The most important thing I realized is that God expects us to love with what we have, not what we don't have. I arrived in Brazil with four hours of Portuguese lessons. Unable to communicate with the kids I would work with and the people I would live with, I wondered how I could help them. After all, isn't helping what mission is all about? Isn't mission about doing for others?
Mission is about loving people. It is about learning from them and accepting their invitation to live life with them.
I was not able to save any kids or get them off the streets. I was barely able to ask them their names and ages. I was, however, able to play games with them - though usually a bit confused about the rules. And I was able to sing and dance with them.
As much as I struggled with my need to feel useful - like I did something huge and important with my summer - God led me to see that I am a work in progress. It takes a lifetime to learn how to love others.
Everyday while in Brazil, I looked at the educators with whom I worked. Many had once been street children. I saw the passion and dedication with which they worked. I heard stories of passed-up opportunities for money and high-profile jobs. When I asked why they chose to work at the project for almost no pay, their answers were simple:
- "I have no choice. This is my life."
- "These are my friends, my family. I can't leave them."
- "If I leave these people, who will fight for them?"
I realized I was born in the United States, privileged. I cannot and should not deny that privilege. I must ask hard questions:
- Why was I born where I was born?
- God, why have you created me as you have?
- What would you have me do with the life you have given me?
I have been given the blessing of choice in my life. Many people do not have choices. Some have no access to food, health care, education. I have all these things. I find myself questioning what to do with these resources.
I have the choice to live my life for others or for myself. I can choose to stay where I am in my comfort zone, but is that the life Jesus calls us to live?
This is the hard question with which each of us must wrestle. Do we choose to live our lives for others, loving with all we have been given?
Edward Everett Hale said:
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the one thing I can."
May we all realize the power in being one and chose to live our lives accordingly.