We have just wrapped up the Mission’s Cristoval celebration for this year. It is an annual youth retreat (attended by all ages) held during the days of Brasil’s country-wide Carnival festivals. It was officially attended by 160 youth and unofficially attended by over 200. Though our family all attended various parts, Luke and Ellie attended as participants. They enjoyed it all. The mornings consisted of a time of worship and a message, the afternoons were all participatory games and fun, and the evening was worship and a message with many creative performances (songs and dances) by the youth.

It was held at the “ranch”, a simple mission facility about 20 min outside of Altamira. It is rustic, with outhouses, creek water, hammock sleeping, very muddy grounds, mosquitoes, and simple Brasilian food. There were plenty of ways to help medically, including sprains, bruises, lacerations, infections, tonsillitis, anaphylaxis, headaches, and the ever-present Amazon intestinal issues. Everyone seemed to have a blast, however, and the worship times and prayer times especially indicated that God was doing some good, sober work in many.

The kids stayed up into the wee hours dancing, playing, and talking and woke up early full of energy, ready to do it again.

Interviewing Luke and Ellie afterward revealed the following:

What did you like the most about Cristoval?

Luke: “being with all my friends”, “hanging out”, “It was the first Cristoval that I could participate and pay attention”, “that I knew everyone”

Ellie: “watching the obstacle course and volleyball”, “prayer times”, “performing our dance”, “playing dutch blitz”

Lessons learned:

Luke: “It was different than a church service because everyone was there to worship and learn.” “Everyone was more open and receptive.”

Ellie: In referring to her group dance performance, with a smile, “Practice doesn’t always make perfect.” I saw the dance and, of course, thought it was absolutely beautiful!

What was especially cool about Cristoval?

Luke: “Seeing all the Vineyard churches come together, being one church, worshipping together”, “seeing all the time and effort that Mutirao (one of the churches) put in to prepare made it fun for everyone”

Ellie: “the prayer times and being touched by the Holy Spirit many times”, “our dance performance”, “the worship”, “dancing (late) into the night”, “It was cool to see my friends touched by the Holy Spirit.”

What happened between you and God?

Luke: “because of so little sleep, worship was powerful and we were so tired and just let God take over”, “seeing the Holy Spirit’s power”, “the importance of holiness and purity and being different. The responsibility doubles on us as Americans because we’re different. This is a good thing but it stinks to be so different.”

Ellie: “He loves me and I don’t treat Him good enough. I want to pray more and spend more time with Him.”

What did you like the least?

Luke: “That it was only three days”, “the food line”

Ellie: “washing dishes outside at night in the outdoor showers”, “food line”

It was so cool that neither Luke or Ellie mentioned the rustic conditioned noted above…

It is such a blessing to see youth simultaneously having a great time and taking God seriously. Especially in this culture of broken families and difficult lives, this celebration was beautiful to behold. The seeds planted will have a lasting Kingdom impact. God is truly using this Mission and the Vineyard churches in this region to transform many from darkness to light.

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