Lily Assaad Reports on Her Trip to Brazil

by   |  12.02.10  |  Honors College News, Honors Student Achievements

Lily’s story shows the unique ways that Honors College travel grant money can be used to enrich the learning experience of an Honors student.

Her story:

This summer, my honors travel grant played a prime part in allowing me to visit Itu, Brazil with 4 other friends, for a month of mission work. Very quickly, I noticed that this wasn’t going to be a typical mission-trip. It was going to challenge and stretch me, allowing me to experience what it meant to adopt a missional lifestyle every single day, rather than to just go perform an act of kindness for acouple of weeks before returning to my original lifestyle.

This was my journal entry on the third day:

“Dear Lord, it’s only the third day but you’ve already taught me so much! In the good situations and the hard situations, you have taught me. I came with a typical ‘what’s in it for me’ mission trip in mind, but you have turned my expectations upside down. This is not a self-consumed, group-building, temporary spiritual-growth trip. We are not treated like little children and this is not the high school-kind of mission trip I am used to. This is being separated from the friends you came with and are comfortable with, with the ultimate goal of loving others and serving them with all we’ve got. THEY’RE the priority, not our safety or personal growth. I love it. I’m learning to, at least. We’re placed right in the center of two missionaries’ every-day lives for the sole purpose of furthering the ministry of the Lord. We’re placed in really hard situations and in the midst of poor Brazilian homes and have to learn to grow-up, depend on our creativity and wisdom to succeed, our efforts, and Jesus. We’re never told how or what to do. Ever. That’s our decision to make, as responsible, young adults. And our growth in God and fire for him? We have to learn how to acquire our own faith and rekindle our heart for him through personal perseverance, not through depending on someone else’s faith to sustain us. In a nutshell, we’re learning how to live everyday lives of ministry while holding on to God and finishing our chores and responsibilities as students or employees. Don’t’ give us fish – teach us how to fish.”

It was just another day in Itu, when I got woken up by the sun shining into my eyes, at 6 am. I looked next to me, and my Brazilian sister, Milena, had already started getting ready for school. I got up off the floor, moved her mattress to it’s usual spot behind the sofa, rolled up my sleeping bag, and just sat in the serene living room, reading my bible and talking to Jesus about how joyful and peaceful my heart was feeling. After 45 minutes, I entered the dark room that Clara, Milena’s sister, was sleeping in. I quietly opened up my extremely organized suitcase (it needed to be, since It was my closet for the month), grabbed shorts, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt, and changed quickly before either of her parents had the chance to enter the room. As soon I was done, Mi’s “mae” (mom) called me out to breakfast. Just like she does every morning, she had set out a hot cup of tea, a slice of cheese, an a small roll of fresh bread for me to eat before heading out of the house. Even though her mae, pai and I had a quiet breakfast together (since I didn’t know Portuguese), I still felt our spirits connect, each morning. Thank God. As I headed to the door, her mom called out good-bye and gave me a look of pure love and wished me a pleasant day. I couldn’t ask for anything more beautiful. As I started following the well-worn 20-minute route to the house of my Brazilian best-friend, Bah, I just marveled at how beautiful the streets, the weather and the homeless people, still sleeping, all were. I was sweating by the time I reached Bah’s house. On queue, she invited me in, gave me a glass of water, and excitedly started singing along to her favorite song, “feijões e arroz” (beans and rice). Eventually, her, Sarah (her roommate) and I all started on our 20 minute walk to Ali and Mark’s house to start preparing for the days activities, cleaning the house, cooking the meal for “xicxou” (fancy feast), the homeless lunch that they open their house for on Fridays. While I started washing the dishes and re-organizing the living room (which had 4 or 5 guys crashing in it the night before), Bah started preparing the towels and bathrooms so that the xicxou community could shower. Alison Roche and Ashley Musick, my friends from ACU, would later collect all the homeless people’s clothes and start soaking, washing and hanging the clothes up, while Josh Love and Aaron Shaver, ACU community-members, would be laughing with or kicking the ball around with some xicxou guys. As I Ali and Mark called us all around the picnic table in the front yard to pray over the beans and rice, I marveled at the beauty of a community where Brazilian and American, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, educated and uneducated, homeless and settled came all together to celebrate love and life, to sacrifice and share everything, and to be woven tighter into the fabric of God’s beautiful family.