I was just a girl, graduated from Bible school and looking for adventure. I had no idea what I was doing. No, seriously, I got on that airplane having no idea what I would teach. People thought I was crazy. “You’re going to the middle of the Amazon Jungle for 6 months?! Don’t you think you should start out with something a little shorter?” I knew that I wanted to be a missionary, but I had no experience at all. I had never been on a missions trip or volunteered overseas. I felt no special, spiritual “call.” But I believed in the importance of PQQ ministry, and I knew that they needed help.
So I said goodbye to family and friends and hopped on a plane headed for Brazil. As I wheeled my little suitcase off the airplane, I was greeted by the wettest, heaviest air I have ever breathed, which by now—thank goodness–feels like normal air. I was also greeted by the welcoming smile of one of the staff at the school. That was the first of many welcoming gestures I received my first couple of days at PQQ.
I felt that the people were so ready to include me into their lives. I was invited over for dinners and lunches, and family game nights. I had only to walk down the path, and I would surely encounter somebody to include me in some kind of work activity or fun. The leadership took time to talk to me personally, find out where my talents lie, and assign me to teach the classes which matched with who I am.
Has my time at PQQ changed my life? It’s too early to tell. But seeing the staff, the real missionaries, at work, to see that they are real people, to witness them growing in grace, to learn from their example, has been one of the most encouraging experiences of my life. My semester at PQQ has been harder than I ever expected, and it has been more rewarding that I ever hoped. I missed all the little conveniences of living in the United States (ok, the truth is, if I’m being honest, I craved Starbucks every afternoon for the first month.) I missed air conditioning! I spent a lot of nights trying to remember what it was like to fall asleep without a mosquito attack through sheets and PJ’s… But I also got to fall asleep to the sound of Amazon rain on a tin roof. I experienced the wonder on the face of a 2nd grader the first time he understood division. I learned how to walk in the jungle, stepping over ant trails and watching for stickers. Every day I needed the grace of God more than the day before, and every day He showed me that He is enough. He is faithful to give us what we need and faithful to teach us that we need Him. I encountered grace and I found fellowship in this place.
Now, as the semester draws to a close, I realize how hard it will be to say goodbye to all the people here. Today I sat by the Amazon River, chopping open coconuts picked from trees in my back yard. The senior high school girls and I drank from their sweet goodness as we climbed trees and jumped from their limbs into the river. Sitting in the tree, we talked about all the things we will miss about PQQ. One of them asked me, “If you could describe PQQ in one word, what would it be?” I thoughtfully sipped from my coconut and finally said, “Peaceful.”