Barbara Soares is a 25 year old Brazilian woman, who works as a teacher in New Jersey. She wrote some reflections from her recent trip to Brazil, and I wanted to share them with you. The effect of this ministry on visitors is a very important part of our story!
Last summer I visited the City of Youth in Brazil with a team from a neighborhood church. I was neither a Christian nor a member of the church, but they asked me to go along and help with translation because although I grew up in New Jersey, my parents are Brazilian and I understand Portuguese.
My time at the City of Youth was amazing, and the testimony of the children, infectious. On my last night there, I accepted Christ! My life has completely changed since then. I was Baptized this past Easter, and this step in faith has encouraged me to seek different ways to honor God. I feel grateful for a renewed life, for forgiveness, for grace, and for His unconditional love.
I desperately wanted to come back to visit the City of Youth, where I begin my Christian walk. Philip and Pastor Derli gave me the opportunity to volunteer during my Spring break and stay at the Girls Ranch.
While I was at Hope, in one of the chapel services, Pastor William asked the children, “How many of you have a prayer partner?” A few kids raised their hands. “How many of you would like one?” Every hand rose instantly. Without hesitation, he instructed the congregation to find a partner to pray with. I watched children race throughout the room to put their arms around friends, house parents, siblings, and even me.
Together, hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, shoulder-to-shoulder, we prayed. Tears of joy and hope streamed down my face, tears of gratitude that God had saved and given each one of us another chance at life. Pastor William prayed for us to forgive those who have hurt us, to let go of the past, and to put trust in our God. Then he invited us to kneel, and with heads bowed and eyes closed, as friends, we poured our hearts out to God through song and prayer.
At that moment, I realized that transformation doesn’t happen alone – which is why I wanted to return to the City of Youth. We experience the full expression of hope, love, and forgiveness when we learn to live and depend on one another as Christians, and trust that we are not alone on our journeys.
I am so grateful for my time at the City of Youth, hearing of Christ’s love and learning these important lessons for myself – and slightly envious of the children, who are able to experience this as teenagers. I had to wait until I was 25 before coming to the City of Youth.