It has officially been one week since I came back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro and I can still feel the impact of this journey. This experience was truly an incredible way to encounter Christ.
Our group had the opportunity to stay with homestay families and it was through this experience, that we really encountered Christ's love. We were welcomed with open arms by the community and were well taken care of. After living with our families in Paulinia for about a week, we left with tears in our eyes and sadness in our hearts. I couldn’t believe how much love we received from those families in only 5 days. This experience has helped me to truly understand what is meant when we say that we are all Brothers and Sisters in Christ. From this experience, I have learned to open my heart to others and love those whom I do not know.
Looking back, I recognize that our time during missionary week in Paulinia really prepared our hearts for the challenges that we were to face in Rio de Janeiro. The moment we arrived at the Rio train station, we already encountered locals telling us that it is unsafe to travel to our accommodation in the evening. Some other groups chose to camp out at the station but our group was fortunate enough to locate a bus that would take us closer to our area. We arrived as a group safely at our designated parish, only to then be divided up into different home stay families, which was unexpected. There was a flurry of chaos and we didn’t even know how we would meet again the next day. Some of us were alone, but most of us were in at least pairs. These are moments where you just have to trust in God that everything will be okay.
We didn’t see each other till later in the afternoon the next day. In comparison to Paulinia, the home stay families are not expected to drive us around, so we had to be prepared to establish ways to meet up as a group and learn the transit system in Brazil. All of us were blessed with wonderful homestay families who were so welcoming. Unfortunately, not all of us had the best homestay conditions. This was the toughest part…seeing a few of my group members encounter bed bugs, cockroaches, a mouse, bats, stray dogs and a sketchy walk home each night. But all in all, the beauty of this journey is that with each of the challenges that we faced, there was significant growth in each of us. The Lord knows us so well that He searches us and challenges us to go beyond ourselves. And, our group bonded over tough moments such as these and became true friends in Christ. The friends that I have made on this 2 and a half week journey are truly friends for life.
Our Lady of Sorrows Parish