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Flying Solo

by Ryann Whelan

 

What an amazing week was had in Brazil! Saints from the Isle of Man and South Africa gathered in Sao Paulo to join Estação 337 and other local churches in a week of worshipping God and ministering to one another. And one stray American was able to join in on the fun, absolutely by God’s grace!

When I first decided to go to Brazil, I didn’t dwell too long on the fact that I’d be going alone. I had travelled solo farther and for longer, after all. As the trip approached, the people around me expressed surprise at my plans, but it didn’t phase me. However, once a serious obstacle arose, the doubt wiggled it’s way in and I began to wonder why I was going at all, especially alone.

Sunday, six days before I was set to fly, I discovered that US citizens need a visa to travel to Brazil. The number of countries that require a visa from a US citizen for a short visit is so small that I hadn’t even considered it. Classic American arrogance! Suddenly getting to Brazil had become impossible. As I didn’t have time to mail the application in, the only option was to drop it off in person, which could only be done by appointment, and there were no appointments available for two months. After submitting, it would then take at least five business days to process.

I gathered the necessary materials dejectedly, not wanting to give up, but wondering if I should even bother. I knew God could work miracles, but would He really circumvent all these bureaucratic obstacles? Maybe I wasn’t supposed to go?

Forty-eight hours later, thanks to a series of promising God-twists, I was in front of a clerk at the Brazilian consulate in Los Angeles.

Forty-eight hours later, thanks to a series of promising God-twists, I was in front of a clerk at the Brazilian consulate in Los Angeles. It was already miraculous that I was able to talk to somebody, but there was no guarantee they would help, and there was still the issue of getting the visa processed in time. She asked when I was leaving, to which I replied, sheepishly, “Saturday,” expecting a groan in response. Instead, I got a receipt and the promise that my visa would be ready by Friday.

Un-be-lieve-able. Nothing is impossible for God! I retrieved my visa, departed without any further hiccups and was welcomed to the massive South American metropolis of Sao Paulo by my super cool hosts.

And I battled a whisper from the enemy that I wasn’t just less apart of the group, but that I was less than the rest of the group— less Spirit-filled, less equipped, and less impactful.

I arrived an outsider. I had met a few of the members of the Living Hope Community Church team, but otherwise knew no one, was from a different country, hadn’t been apart of any of the pre-departure meetings, wasn’t being hosted with or near anyone else, and technically wasn’t apart of a Four12 affiliated church. And I battled a whisper from the enemy that I wasn’t just less apart of the group, but that I was less than the rest of the group— less Spirit-filled, less equipped, and less impactful. I knew it was silly, especially since my presence there at all was a testament to God wanting me in Brazil, but it persisted nonetheless.

Yet God continually blessed me in reminders that I was not alone as strangers became friends and foreign became familiar. The IOM team welcomed me warmly and the Brazilian people blessed us all lavishly. The term “knitting hearts together” is often used in the church, but this week truly exemplified how God brings people from all corners of the world and transcends cultural and linguistic barriers to instill love for one other in a way that is beyond the natural. As we got to talk with and pray for members of Estação 337, it wasn’t just how quickly I felt my heart warm to total strangers, but how deeply I felt invested in their spiritual and personal journeys.

Throughout the trip, God reminded me that I wasn’t alone. He surrounded me with His people. He spoke to me through them and I received so many encouraging words. He spoke to them through me and it was such a blessing to share God’s heart with His people. He reaffirmed that He was with me and wanted to draw me closer and prepare me for more. He broke open new things for all of us.

I’m so grateful God made a way for me to get to Brazil because He reshaped me in the process. And at no point in the journey was I alone.


Photo: Ryann (2nd from right) with her hosts Juliana and Samuel Oliveira in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ryann Whelan lives in the sunny state of California, a San Clemente girl at heart who graduated from Loyola Marymount in 2014 with a degree in English. Best known as ‘Ry’ to her friends and family, this 20 something girl loves to travel, explore outdoors, disappear with a good book, watch movies and listen to lesser known, ‘soon to be famous’ live music performances. A former PK (pastor’s kid) she loves to be a part of missions, church and reaching the lost with the love of Jesus.

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