I had the opportunity to spend eighteen months as a missionary for my church, and spent that time in the Amazon. I bounced between two cities, Manaus and Boa Vista, Brazil, and fell in love with the people, the language and the culture. I had the chance to experience the living conditions of some of the most humble people on earth. When I came home from my time serving, I immediately went on a work trip with my dad. We stayed at a five-star hotel in Hollywood and were “wined and dined” by people who wanted my dad’s business. Going from dirt floors and tin roofs, to high-rises and carpet, sent me on a reverse culture shock that I wasn’t expecting. As my dad was in meetings, I went across the street to a high-end mall and walked alone, just watching the crowds of people pass by and realizing that none of them knew where I was or what I had seen just days before. They gave no thought to what else existed in the world other than their next shopping destination.
I know that the feelings I was having were fresh and intense and I can’t fault those people for carrying on with their lives, I eventually did the same! But I’ll never forget how small and insignificant I felt in that moment. I had gone from purpose-driven and service-oriented, to jumping headlong into “the world” again. I sat on a bench and gave myself room to think about what difference, if any, I had made in those short eighteen months in the Amazon jungle.
On one visit, about halfway through my mission, an older woman asked me where I was from. I told her I was from the United States and she got excited as she asked if I spoke English. (That made me grin.) I told her I did and she stood and brought me some scriptures that she had, but that were in English. Inside the cover was a letter a father had written. It explained how one Father’s Day he was leaving his home to run some errands and hadn’t realized his toddler had followed him out the door. He accidentally ran over his son and killed him. He told how shattered and lost he felt, and how a series of verses kept him grounded through his sorrow and taught him how to hope again after such a devastating loss. At the end of the letter was a reference to a verse in the book. We found the verse and read it, where there was a small testimony written at the bottom of the page along with another reference to a new verse. We spent the next little while following the chain of verses and watching the faith of this father strengthen, verse by verse. We were all deeply moved and edified by his faith and humility and by the grace God had granted him in healing from something so heart wrenching. It was sacred.
Before we left, I had to ask her how she ended up with an English set of scriptures. She said she’d had it for years and couldn’t remember. I was humbled in my curiosity as I wondered… Did the man know his testimony had reached its way to the heart of the Amazon? Did he have any idea that a group of people would be so moved by his words and his story of faith?
Fast-forward to the moment in the Hollywood shopping mall and my question about my influence as a missionary… Perhaps I taught a few people about Jesus. Perhaps my time made a difference to some. Perhaps some day I’ll cross paths with someone who benefited from my efforts there. Or perhaps not. But, just like that man and his English testimony moving the hearts of Brazilian people, there’s no way to know, nor can I underestimate any of it. I just know I did my best and I trust the power of influence to travel where it will.
Join Our Newsletter Journey
Dive deeper into the world of Big Ocean Women. By subscribing to our newsletter, you'll receive a monthly dose of empowering stories, insightful articles, and the latest news from our global sisterhood. Don't miss out on the wave of inspiration – subscribe now and be part of our ever-growing community.